Friday, March 5, 2010

Movie Review: Hot Tub Time Machine

Rated: R

Website: Official Hot Tub Time Machine site

Starring: John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Clark Duke

My Review: I was lucky to be able to attend an advanced screening of Hot Tub Time Machine, and a studio rep informed us that the movie we were about to see was not the final cut, so it’s a bit unfair for me to review it already.

Anyway, here’s my review:

So there’s this hot tub…but it’s also a time machine…and much in the vein of Snakes on a Plane, you know from the title alone what you’re going to get from the movie. And if you find yourself wondering why such a blunt self-referential title is used, you’re already thinking way too hard.

Hot Tub Time Machine is a bawdy comedy about three 40-something guys who have been friends since childhood, but now their lives kind of suck. Adam (John Cusack) is a control freak who can’t make a relationship work. Nick (Craig Robinson) is a failed musician who now works at a doggy day spa. Lou (Rob Corddry) is a raging alcoholic, and that’s probably the least of his problems. In an attempt the cheer themselves up and recapture some of the glory of their youth, they head out to a ski lodge (with Adam’s 20-year-old nephew, Jacob (played by Clark Duke), in tow) where they spent a great weekend together in 1986.

Unfortunately, much like their lives, the ski lodge they remember so fondly also kind of sucks. But one soak in an unknowingly time-bending hot tub sends them back to that infamous weekend in 1986, Jacob included (who technically shouldn’t even exist at that time). Hopes of changing their pasts to improve their present lives are quickly dashed when a mysterious repairman (a Chevy Chase cameo) appears and warns them that changing just one thing could screw up everything in the future. So they set out to recreate the events of that weekend—with Jacob acting as a sort of barometer of how they’re affecting the present time—and eventually make their way back to 2010.

The entire movie is basically a love letter to cheesy 1980’s comedies, and the people who adore them, clich├ęs and all. The comedy is pretty much as lowbrow as you can get (there’s a gross-out sight gag for every possible bodily fluid), and the couple of plot twists are pretty weak and easy to see coming, but that doesn’t keep Hot Tub from being a fun way to spend 90 minutes. There are references to tons of ‘80s movies, including most of Cusack’s own past works, the soundtrack is as good as that “Hits of the ‘80s” mix tape you have in your car (don’t deny it, we all have one), and there are a lot of moments that are simply laugh-out-loud hilarious (like a running gag involving a severed arm).

The three leads couldn’t have been cast any better, and they all look like they had a blast making the movie. It’s been years since Cusack has starred in a full-blown comedy, and after seeing him in this, I hope he continues the trend. Robinson is probably best known as Darryl the warehouse worker on The Office, and he makes the most out of the opportunity to be a lead player. Corddry excels at playing angry losers, and expertly makes Lou a character you would pity, if only he wasn’t such a jerk. Newcomer Clark Duke (who IMDB tells me has done most of his work on the TV series Greek) holds his own well when pitted against these three powerhouses, especially in the multitude of scenes where he plays the straight man to Corddry’s insanity. All he needs is a quirky comedy with Michael Cera to really make his name known.

Bottom Line: Hot Tub definitely isn’t for everyone, and you have to be in the right sort of mood to find it entertaining. There are plenty of flaws to pick out if you want to: Minor characters are introduced and then vanish without explanation, dates and character ages are played with loosely (using Hot Tub math, 1986 is 20 years before 2010), the same outdated Michael Jackson joke that’s in the trailer is still in the movie (I hope they cut that out before the theatrical release), and while I’m no prude when it comes to using colorful language, the f-bomb is used so often as an adjective/adverb, I began to wonder if the screenwriters knew any other modifiers. But as a fun, vulgar, and preposterous comedy that never takes itself too seriously, Hot Tub Time Machine is a great time. And you certainly can’t accuse it of misleading advertising.

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