Thursday, March 25, 2010
Okay here’s the pitch: three guys whose lives have not gone exactly as planned end up traveling back to the 1980s and their glory days by way of a hot tub time machine. Really? And what’s really amazing is that someone bought that pitch so now we do indeed have “Hot Tub Time Machine” (opening March 26 throughout San Diego).
Considering the recent crap (“The Bounty Hunter,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” “Valentine’s Day,” to name a few) that has been polluting theaters recently, “Hot Tub Time Machine” actually ends up being diverting fun. Loaded with gross out gags, 80s references, and a decent cast, “Hot Tub Time Machine” suggests that yes you can go back in time and change your life… Okay that premise doesn’t hold up well to any scrutiny but what the heck don’t do the math.
Our three protagonists are hitting mid life crises a bit early. Nick (Craig Robinson) works at a doggie salon for obnoxious rich people and their pampered pets; Adam (John Cusack) sells insurance and just broke up with his girlfriend; and Lou (Rob Corddry) just tried to commit suicide. Then to round out the group of misfits -- and broaden the audience demo -- throw in twenty-something slacker Jacob (Clark Duke) who’s Adam’s nephew. Now you have a quartet of losers worthy of the world’s tiniest violin. To cheer up Lou, the others decide to head out to the hot spot of their youth to give him a good time. Unfortunately that ski town they so fondly remember is doing about as well as they are so Lou starts to feel suicidal all over again.
In an attempt to relax they jump in their outdoor hot tub and suddenly find themselves transported back to the pastel colors of Miami Vice, leg warmers, bad hair, and bands like Poison and Motley Crue. Jacob, relying on pop culture folklore, suggests that they all must relive their past exactly as it occurred or else thing may go haywire in the universe. But if you think these guys are going to replay all their bad decisions you’re wrong. They are about to make a whole new set of potentially bad -- okay maybe some good -- decisions.
The one thing “Hot Tub Time Machine” has in its favor is that it doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is – a brainless comedy. It’s a dumb blonde of a comedy, only it’s far from cute. The gross out factor here is akin to “Drag Me To Hell” when it comes to unpleasant ooze and bodily functions. Ew! The plot doesn’t hold up to the most minimal of scrutiny. Jacob’s age, for one, seems wrong; lost memory is a bit of an issue; and if changing the past changes the future that’s not fully played out in the most logical manner. But wait I’m expecting logic from a film called “Hot Tub Time Machine”? I guess calling a film that almost gives it a free pass from having to be rooted in any way in the real world or to even make the least bit of sense.
The actors are all solid. No one is a stellar standout although Corddry gets the most flamboyant role. Chevy Chase is wasted as the hot tub maintenance guy. The fact that Cusack was an eighties star could have been milked better buy hey he’s still a fun actor to watch. Cusack actually paired more successfully with “Hot Tub” director Steve Pink on “Grosse Pointe Blank,” another film about revisiting one’s past. Pink wrote the clever script for “Grosse Pointe Blank,” and that film provided both laughs, and better developed characters and story. For “Hot Tub,” Pink works off a script by Sean Anders and John Morris and it’s a low, shallow comedy from start to finish. But at least it knows that and makes no bones about it.
The best running gag to be found in “Hot Tub,” involves Crispin Glover. Glover plays a one-armed bellboy and when the quartet travel back in time the bellboy has both arms and keeps engaging in dangerous behavior that threatens to take a limb. Oddly enough, this proves to be quite hysterical thanks to Glover’s eccentric demeanor.
“Hot Tub Time Machine” (rated R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, drug use and pervasive language) travels back to the eighties but doesn’t quite capture the feel of those eighties romantic teen comedies. The film may capture the look, dreadful clothes, and vibe of the that decade but not quite the spirit of the filmmaking. Yet if you need a comedy fix, this is probably the best you’ll find at the moment in theaters. Not a ringing endorsement but the film did make me laugh and will probably entertain if you don't go in with high expectations.
Companion viewing: “The Karate Kid,” “Say Anything,” “Grosse Point Blank”