Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

If you are going to see a film entitled Hot Tub Time Machine you should probably know what to expect. I have found it odd that some who see this movie dislike it so. Not to say HTTM is an exceptional film, in fact it does not reach its full potential but nevertheless, this one is a few notches above average.

The movie is about three aging friends whose lives are in miserable states. Their marriages are falling apart and they hate their jobs. When one of the guys tries to commit suicide the other two decide that something needs to be done and they all plan to head up to a ski lodge they used to frequent when they were younger. Instead of it being the raucous hay day of yesteryear it turns out the skiing town and lodge are barely standing and our three heroes are pretty much the only people who check in for the weekend. Instead of letting this depress them more they decide to make the best of it and after a heavy night of inebriation in a hot tub they wake up to find themselves in the year 1986.
To everyone else around them they look like their 1986 selves, younger and with bad haircuts. They must find a way to get back to the present while still living out their 1986 teenage lives.

The film had me chortling throughout the duration. Rob Corddry's hair metal loving Lou is incredibly hilarious and easily this is the best work he has ever done. While the humour through out the film can be crass and at times the script relies too heavily on genital and homophobic based jokes, the most memorable laugh out loud moments come from the actors themselves. There are many unexpected deliveries by the cast that really hit the funny bone.

What should have been the most ingenious casting call of the year with John Cusack as the lead is instead a somewhat wasted opportunity. The world has not had a time travel comedy since the 80's and here we have a time travel comedy that is not only set in the 80's but the leading actor is an 80's film icon. The film would have benefited from more references to 80's nostalgia especially references to 80's cinema. Cusack should be channeling himself from Better Off Dead or Say Anything and although some of that classic charm does shine through the cracks he doesn't let loose enough to recapture that presence he once had. Also when the main characters look into mirrors and see their younger selves why the hell didn't the filmmakers superimpose images from Cusack's 80's roles instead of hiring an actor who slightly resembles him. It's been over 15 years since Forrest Gump, that technology must have come down in price since! To hope that there would have been a reference or parody of Cusacks most iconic scene involving a stereo from Say Anything would be asking too much.
The film does use it's setting to good effect and the overall feel is somewhere around Revenge of the Nerds meets The Hangover. It is too bad though, that the filmmakers did not use the freedom of such a strange idea to make a nostalgic piece on 80's teen comedies but played by older actors now that would have been a fantastic movie.
Not to say the idea here is completely squandered, there are some great cameos by Chevy Chase as well as Crispin Glover and the soundtrack hits all the right notes except for an impromptu rendition of Black Eyed Peas "Let's Get Retarded" which could be taken as a vague Back to the Future reference.
The script could have been much stronger and Clark Duke could have been written out completely. Less emphasis on dick and gay jokes and more on 80's nostalgia and this could have been one of the best comedies of the past ten years.

Laughs or no the film itself is much more entertaining and engaging than The Hangover. The cast including the supporting roles, minus Clark Duke but especially my celebrity crush Lizzie Caplan, really make this one. A fun comedy that is definitely worth a look.


La Sporgenza said...

Good review Kris. I've been trying to watch a few recent films/TV (Clash of the Titans, Cop Out, The Losers, the BBC series Being Human, and a few others in the past week) with an eye to keeping my expectations in check. One was pretty darn good (Losers), a couple were mildly entertaining (Clash and Being Human) and one was awful (Cop Out). As you rightly point out, the trick with a film like Hot Tub Time Machine is to understand going in that it isn't high art, it's a frat-boy comedy. Its success needs to be looked at in context, but that's always been the case. It's a true rarity for a comedy to break out of its topical limitations and resonate beyond its time. Try and watch Smokey and the Bandit and you'll see what I mean. That was the funniest and most popular movie of the the summer of 1977.

'nuff said.


the coelacanth said...

i hate clark duke in general and more specifically, in this, where his increasing resemblance to a fat lesbian is uncanny.

like you say, you kind of know what to expect from the title and the premise, but i still can't help having been mildly let down by this. the actors (particularly corddry and robinson) were quite funny, but at the end i felt like there were too many squandered opportunities. ah well, it is what it is. decent, good for some laughs, forgettable. kind of like me.

La Sporgenza said...

I don't think of you as particularly decent Joe.

Niki Diamonds said...

Never Joe. Never.