Monday, March 29, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

Let’s just get this out of the way – Hot Tub Time Machine is not this year’s The Hangover (2009). It isn’t as funny, or awesome, or memorable or well-made. Rob Corddry will not break out like Zach Galifianakis, primarily because he isn’t as funny. It won’t be a Box Office monster. It won’t win any Golden Globes. And it won’t create a minor uproar when it isn’t nominated in Oscar’s expanded Best Picture category. Alright? Cool? Let’s move on.

Re-written by the guys behind Sex Drive (2008) and She’s Out of My League (2010), HTTM is a “high” concept flick about a bunch of miserable men who transport themselves to glories past via a Deloeran…I mean phone booth…I mean Hot Tub Time Machine. It’s a loving homage to the great ridiculousness of the ‘80s, in clothes, in music and mostly in film. As such, it stars ‘80s icon John Cusack as the sad-sack leader of the lumpy loser crew...

Cusack plays Adam, a cold and detached narcissist who just drove away a girlfriend who apparently sucked anyway. His nephew Jacob (Clark Duke, from TV’s Greek and the aforementioned Sex Drive) is a computer nerd who rarely leaves Adam’s basement. Nick (Craig Robinson) aspired to be a rock star, but now grooms dogs for a living. Lou (Corddry) is an angry, suicidal bald guy – we don’t know why he’s suicidal, but it’s probably either because he’s so angry or so bald, or some combination thereof.

And because of Lou’s recent suicidal development, the guys head out to their favorite ski resort for a guy’s weekend, bringing Jacob along for the ride just ‘cause. It’s there they find the hot tub, and their time travel adventures begin.

The setup drags, but once the guys find themselves at Winter Fest ’86 and decide to, essentially, just go with it, the flick takes off. The plot and ideas are just sort of tossed together, but the outcome is more often funnier than not.

HTTM’s charm is in its stupidity. None of this is even SUPPOSED to make sense, and that’s the offbeat beauty of it. The guys inhabit their ‘80s bodies, accept Jacob who, conveniently, won’t be born till 9 months from this weekend. They start out deciding they need to do exactly what they did then, to avoid the stuff that happens in that Ashton Kutcher movie. They stick to this plan for a few minutes, before remembering they’re in a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine and then just do whatever they want.

As a Cusack flick, HTTM is more along the lines of Grosse Point Blank (1997) than Better off Dead (1985). It’s a throwback flick, a revisit to the ‘80s with an awareness of the now, and it rocks an excellent soundtrack. Cusack, though, is playing the straight guy this time around, and he seems pretty bored by the idea.

This leaves plenty of room for Corddry – who swings heavy and often, and only sometimes hits the mark – and Robinson, who is nothing short of brilliant. For years he’s been an understated and underplayed comedy genius on The Office, occasionally branching out into scene-stealing feature roles in flicks like Knocked Up (2007). He does the same thing here, just more often.

Even Duke gets a few hits in, butting heads with the bizarre hot tub repair man played by Chevy Chase. Back to the Future’s Crispin Glover shows up in running joke form as an accident-prone bellhop destined to lose his arm this weekend, somehow, some way.

There are a lot of laughs to be found in Hot Tub Time Machine, and a lot of fun to be had. But what separates this flick from the classics are the same elements that establish quality in any film, nonsensical or otherwise. HTTM lacks a certain cohesiveness, an ambition or purpose. It’s almost as if it isn’t even trying, which makes you wonder just how awesome it could have been.

It’s hard to chastise a movie this ridiculous for not aiming to be better, but a little more craft and execution would have elevated this occasionally awesome flick into something of a classic.


? said...

The original script that sold was one of the funniest I read at the time. But when I saw the trailer, not a single line from the script was in it.

DubMC said...

I was thinking of writing something up about this. I enjoyed the script a lot too (although I didn't read the 3rd act. I tend to save the the final pages of scripts I think I'd like to see until after I do) but the product is VERY different. The Sex Drive guys are behind the majority of the changes, I believe. A lot of the jokes held over, but I'd like to go back, read and compare. I have a feeling a hybrid of the two scripts would have made an excellent flick.

Even thought the re-write itself is actually a hybrid. ha. You know what I mean

? said...

It was never going to be a conherent film, but I did find it funny enough to do the job. Shame it was changed so much.

The Bru said...

I can't wait to see this.


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