Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

Title: Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

Director: Steve Pink

Cast: John Cusack, Crispin Glover, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Chevy Chase


Hot Tub Time Machine has one cool thing going for it: its title. A title like that will attract people even if the movie sucks. Same phenomenon occurred with Snakes on a Plane (2006), a terrible (though fun) film that made some bank and caused a buzz on the net simply because of its strange/catchy title, which has that ability to make people re-think it. People read titles like Hot Tub Time Machine and go: “Wait, what? A hot tub that’s a time machine? That’s got to be funny!” Unfortunately, most of the time, gimmicky titles like that one are made solely for the purpose of catching the eye of the easily impressed passers by and getting his or her butt inside the movie theater. Was this the case with Hot Tub Time Machine?

Hot Tub Time Machine basically takes the premise of Back to the Future and places it in a “guy comedy”. You know, guy comedies are those films where guys rule supreme and the female presence is kept down to a minimum so that guys can do bond and become better people. Most of the time this type of film ends up making guys look like idiots who are just salivating at the opportunity of going ape shit the minute they ditch their wives. These are comedies where girls are contractually obligated to appear topless at various points during the picture. Female characters are always secondary on these films, guys usually end up getting so stoned or hammered that they pass out. And guys say “fuck” a lot. If you want a good example of a guy comedy, then watch The Hangover (2009). Yet another film that Hot Tub Time Machine is trying to imitate. One thing you can be sure when watching Hot Tub Time Machine: originality went down the drain.

How many similarities do we have with Back to the Future and The Hangover? Let me count the ways:

- John Cusack wears a jacket that looks like a life preserver.

- A time machine is used to travel back in time.

- A character meets his parents in the past.

- A character has a bully he must confront.

- Somebody gets on stage to sing a song that has yet to be written, and the audience loves it

- When they return to their own time, things are slightly different.

- Crispin Glover (who plays George McFly in Back to the Future) plays a character

- Like in The Hangover, we have four guys looking to escape their present lives and have a bit of an “guys night out” , drug use and alcohol abuse ensues.

I mean, the similarities are all over the place, you will eventually come to the conclusion just like I did, that the filmmakers simply saw Back to the Future and wanted to make a raunchier, 'funnier' version of it. You could almost hear the producers pitch “Its going to be Back to the Future meets The Hangover! It’ll be a hit!” Sad part is it kind of was a hit, and even some reviewers thought this movie was good. Even Roger Ebert liked it, but I got a feeling it’s just because he worships John Cusack.

The only glimmer of originality in the film is that Chevy Chase plays God, you know, the all knowing, ever present, ominous character that seems to know the answers to everything. Sadly, he is underplayed. Chevy Chase needs a come back role dammit! The other thing I didn’t like about this movie is that its kind of bitter. Now, I don’t mind a bitter film, but I do mind when that film is supposed to be a comedy. On this film, practically none of the characters are likable. Not even freaking John Cusack who is like an 80’s god, and has a masters degree on playing likable characters. On Hot Tub Time Machine he plays his character so one note that you’d be well advised to check Cusack’s pulse, just to make sure the actor in him is still alive. Rob Corddry plays an asshole ever step of the way, the kind of friend that is hard to love. Craig Robinson plays himself once again. But there was one character, played by Clark Duke that I thought was kind of interesting. He is the teenager that represents the younger generation coming up, the wise ass who thinks cheesy movies are bad. Its that kid that watches a movie from the 80s, like for example Howard the Duck (1986) and is always asking questions like “a duck from another dimension? That’s freaking impossible! And stupid!” So this character goes around the whole movie pointing out the cheesy aspects of the film, as if telling the younger generation “I know, this is freaking stupid, but remember: we’re trying to be a movie from the 80’s!”

Somebody give Chevy Chase his comeback already!

Did this movie achieve its purpose? Well, it is a raunchier more vulgar version of Back to the Future. My problem with it was that the 80’s thing should have been exploited a bit further. Capturing that vibe from the 80’s should've involved more than just having your characters wear Iron Maiden t-shirts. It involves more than having a song from the 80’s play every five minutes. I think they could have worked harder to make the 80’s feel more 80’s, they should have worked harder to capture the soul of th era, but it seems to me this movie was simply made to make a quick buck, not to make a good comedy that would stand the test of time. As it is, only one scene really truly stands out as 80's, where the guys walk into this cabin, and everything is suddenly super 80s! People using cassette players, people don’t know what a cellphone or being on line is and practically everybody in the room wears neon colors. Unfortunately, after that brief sequence, the rest of the film didn’t feel that 80’s to me. I know the 80’s wasn’t a decade known for its ‘soul’, but the soul of the 80’s is what this movie failed to capture.

Another negative thing about the movie is the way it was edited. It feels too choppy. By that I mean that the movie goes from one scene to the next without smooth transitions, things are to be taken for granted that they happened, and as a result, you feel like you are watching a movie skipping chapters. As if you were watching the movie on fast forward. I think the film does this because it is such a by the numbers film. Since this movie takes so much from other films, we as an audience already know what’s coming down the road and the filmmakers know that. So they figure they’ll cut the bull and put the story on fast forward, because they know you already saw Back to the Future. They know you know the rules for this kind of film. It's so sad that this kind of movie exists actually, a movie that relies on the fact that you know how its going to be played out. So, no surprises here, this my friends is a film made without any passion.

In conclusion, Hot Tub Time Machine is an extremely forgettable movie in my book. I saw it and have no desire of re-watching it. I took nothing with me from watching even though it was trying to talk about facing your fears or something. The characters are extremely bitter, they hate their lives and as a result, we hate it with them. And take it from me, I’m a child of the 80’s I lived and breathed the 80’s when I was a kid, so I know what Im talking about when I say this movie didn’t really feel like the 80’s. I was looking to re-live that era a bit, or at the very least, make some fun of it. Unfortunately, we still need a movie that truly captures what it was like to live in that decade.

Rating: 2 out of 5
Hot Tub Time MachineHot Tub Time Machine (Unrated) [Blu-ray]The Hangover (Unrated Two-Disc Special Edition)


Hans A. said...

Hey Francisco! I can only say that I probably liked this film slightly more than you, only because I thought the comedy was uneven. In other words, somethings I found funny, somethings I didn't. Comedy is hard to make. However, I don't think the filmmakers were playing down the Back to the Future hommage. It's an overt nod, especially with Crispin Glover's casting. Cusak, for me, really stands out in this one and was the attraction. A lot of 80s movies are riffed on in this one, and Cusak made some memorable ones like Better Off Dead (with the ski setting) and One Crazy Summer. His scenes with Lizzy Caplan are good, as they have a strong chemistry, and I wished there were more of them. It seems as if Cusak is having fun revisiting this era, and I think HTTM is worth seeing for him. There is also an unexpected cameo in the bar, later on, that I really liked. This is a good review, Francisco. By the way, if you want to see an excellent recent film set in the 80s see Adventureland from last year. It was probably in my top three from last year. Have a good week!

The Film Connoisseur said...

Hey Hans, thanks for commenting!

I noticed that a lot of reviewers enjoyed this one more than I did, I just didnt find it all that great. I didnt really laugh all that often. I did giggle at times, but I didnt think it was that effective, but thats just me.

I did catch some references to movies from the 80s, like for example when they are walking down the snow, somebody says "I want my two dollars!" in reference to Cusacks Better Off Dead, where this kid follows him around trying to charge him 2 dollars for his newspaper subscription.

I saw Adventureland and enjoyed it a whole lot more than this one.

I think the 80's needs a movie that represents it better, in my opinion, they still havent done it rigth.

Mr. Fiendish said...

too bad, I saw this with a group of friends and laughed a lot. To me it was like Hot Dog The Movie only better.

The Film Connoisseur said...

I guess this is one of those movies that everyone loves but I hate.

jeremythecritic said...

Wow, we really split on this one didn't we? Can't argue with any of those similarities with Back to the Future but I guess the difference is I viewed it as more of a tribute or a spoof than blatantly trying to rip it off.

I thought the movie was upfront and sincere about its intentions and actually found it much funnier than The Hangover, which I don't think completely delivered on its promising set-up. And this looked like it captured the 80's pretty well to me...don't know how much more it could have done. Adventureland is an interesting point of comparison. I also completely agree with Hans A. that there should have been more scenes with Cusack and Caplan (my one complaint) and thought it was fun seeing Cusack revisit this time period.

You really stated your case well here....Excellent write-up as usual.

The Film Connoisseur said...

Maybe I was in a bad mood? I dont know...maybe upon a re-watch I might like it a little better, but for now, this is how I stand. I guess its one of those movies that everyone loves and I just dont get.

The Kid In The Front Row said...

You know, I really enjoyed this movie. I saw it on a whim with a bunch of friends, we had been out somewhere, I forget where.. and as we came home, someone said "hey, shall we go see a movie?" -- so we did. And it was this.

It's entirely possible I only liked it because it fit the mood and rhythm of our night. I was with a bunch of twentysomething's (kids of the 80's, like me) - and they are only casual moviegoers; and it just made us laugh! It was enjoyable, in a casual, light-hearted kind of way.

I'll never see it again, I've never recommended it to anyone. But I have no problem with it!

Dan said...

This film always sounded like an accident waiting to happen when I first heard about the premise.

Soiled Sinema said...

I loved this film and found it to be a genuine comedy, one with a plot, however ludicrous it is. Not just a "road trip" film but a buddy comedy with Rob Corddry and John Cusack leading the screen and not to mention Crispin Glover in pure hilarity.

"I can't move...because I'm broken.."

I need to rewatch this now.


The Film Connoisseur said...

Maybe I need to re-watch this one, everyone seems to love the shit out of it except me!


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