Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

I guess the big question with Hot Tub Time Machine is why anyone would ever need a review to tell them about this movie.  If the title doesn't explain it all to you, then what can I do to help?  It's a stupid title for a movie that has no intentions of being anything more or less than a stupid comedy.  To be completely honest, the gloriously stupid title (the best since Snakes On a Plane) would have been enough to convince me to watch this movie.  Adding in John Cusack and Craig Robinson is just icing on the cake.

The premise is that three one-time best friends are now eking out sad existences.  Adam's (Cusack) girlfriend has just moved out and apparently taken most of his belongings.  The only person he sees regularly is his nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke), who spends all his time in his basement room playing video games.  Nick (Robinson) is married to a controlling wife (who insisted he hyphenate his last named when they got married) and his job includes cleaning the feces out of rich people's dogs.  They are brought together when Lou (Rob Corddry), an alcoholic party animal, makes the mistake of revving his engine in time to Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home" with the garage door closed.  Someone (who could this possibly be?  It's late at night, he lives alone, and the garage is closed!) saves his life and the hospital assumes that this was a failed suicide attempt.  Since Lou's family hates him and he has no real friends, his childhood buddies, Adam and Jacob, rally to his hospital bedside.  They don't talk to Lou any more because "he's an asshole," but they agree to take care of him because "he's [their] asshole."  If you don't have someone like that in your circle of friends, chances are, you're that guy.

Lou assures them that it was just an accident, but they decide that the best way to cheer up a hard-drinking forty year-old adolescent is to relive their youthful debauchery by visiting their old stomping grounds.  These stomping grounds happen to be a ski town that has all but been condemned; the town's stores are all out of business and their formerly hedonistic hotel is now filled with the elderly and their cats.  The group (which includes Jacob, for some reason) gets their old room, which comes with a broken hot tub.  The hotel repairman (Chevy Chase) fixes it so that glows with a yellow light that makes the water a suspicious shade of urine yellow, but the group strips down and gets hot tub drunk right away.

When they wake up, it is 1986.  The three friends now inhabit their eighteen year-old bodies and are at the bustling ski resort in the prime of their lives.  Jacob has also gone back in time, although no explanation is given as to how or why he is in his own modern day body.  The group is warned by the repairman not to change anything in the past, but that plan gets old fast.  Adam has the chance to avoid dumping the perfect girlfriend, Nick can redeem his musical dreams, Lou can drink a lot and try to get laid, and Jacob can try prevent his existence from being wiped out by the group changing the future.  There are a lot of 80s jokes, some gratuitous breasts, a few shots of Corddry's naked butt, and a lot of slapstick comedy.  Some of it works, some of it doesn't, but it's all pretty stupid.

For being so obviously dumb, this movie had some pretty solid direction.  Steve Pink is better known as a screenwriter (he wrote High Fidelity and Grosse Point Blank), but he has a gift for catching humor with his camera.  Some of that is obviously due to him giving the cast some leeway with their lines, but I'll give Pink credit for making this ridiculous movie not come off as amateurish.

The main cast is pretty good, too.  John Cusack is always likable in his movies, even though he hasn't made a great one in a while.  Craig Robinson is rapidly becoming a reliable quality gauge for stupid comedies.  His deadpanning into the camera the phrase "hot tub time machine" is worth seeing the movie for, just by itself.  Clark Duke plays a chubby nerd this time, expanding on his varied film credits that include "chubby dork," "chubby dweeb," and the adjective-less "nerd."  What will make or break your enjoyment of this movie is how much you like Rob Corddry.  Most of the film's humor comes from him, including every single cheap or gross-out joke in the script.  Personally, I got tired of him pretty quickly, but he still made me laugh on occasion, which I found impressive.  Usually, when I am turned off by a comedic character, there is no way back into my good graces (I'm judgmental like that), but his timing was good and some of his lines are brilliant.  He's really, really obnoxious, though.

The supporting cast is surprisingly full decent performances.  Of course, Chevy Chase has fun as the nutty/supernatural repairman, so he's decent enough.  Crispin Glover gets some laughs as a bellboy doomed to lose his arm...somehow.  Thomas Lennon has a cameo that is a little funny, I guess, but nothing special.  The young cast was surprisingly decent, too.  Sebastian Stan overacted as the stereotypical 80s movie ski jerk, but this isn't a movie that requires subtlety, so it worked well.  Similarly, Lyndsy Fonseca and Collette Wolfe played their ditzy snow bunny slut roles as well as the roles demanded.  Lizzy Caplan did well as Cusack's "true" love interest, and they managed to give the movie something a little deeper than a stupid slapstick comedy deserves.

Are there any flaws in this film?  Well, yeah.  But to detail the film's scientific and logical flaws is missing the point.  You don't think a movie titled Hot Tub Time Machine really cares do you?  If this sounds like a stupid movie, you're absolutely right.  It's dumb and embraces that level of cleverness fully.  It's definitely better than the title implies, but a lot of the jokes generate chuckles instead of laughs.  Admittedly, a big part of that for me was because I didn't really have fun with Rob Corddry's character, even though he had some of the film's best lines.  This movie's biggest flaw was in giving the bulk of the humor to the least likable character.  Corddry carried this film's humor, even though there were several other actors capable of chipping in.  I thought Craig Robinson was underused, despite his theoretically main character status.  Chevy Chase, Thomas Lennon and Crispin Glover could have done more, too.  As far as stupid slapstick goes, there are certainly worse movies to watch, but this just isn't funny enough to satisfy me.

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