Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine - Movie Review


Starring John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Cripsin Glover, Lizzy Caplan and Chevy Chase.
Directed by Steve Pink.

I'd always believed that someone was going to remake Back to the Future for release in 2015, with Marty McFly going back to 1985. This movie's existence makes such a possibility difficult, because it borrows so heavily from that film's three-act structure, combined with the ski lodge episode of South Park. And the movie doesn't compare favorable to those. In fact, it doesn't live up to the raunchy fun of The Hangover or the 80's nostalgia of The Wedding Singer. It's a movie that needed to focus less on being ugly and more on being funny.

Three losers in their 40's come together after one of them, Lou (Rob Corddry), ends up hospitalized after what may have been a suicide attempt. The other two friends are Adam (John Cusack), an insurance salesman whose latest girlfriend dumped him, and Nick (Craig Robinson), a guy working a dead-end job at a grooming company, married to a wife cheating on him. Meanwhile Adam has a sad-sack nerdy nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) who spends all his time doing online gaming. In short, we're introduced to four characters we have no reason to root for.

When they sit in the hot tub time machine and go back to 1986, the rest of the movie takes place on the one night at a ski lodge where these three friends made choices that put them on the path to loserdom. Adam dumped his high-school sweetheart, Lou got beat up by the local bully, and Nick performed poorly with his band in front of everyone. To the audience and each other, the three still look like themselves, but to everyone else, they appear just how they did in 1986. Jacob, after fading in and out of existance a la Marty McFly, urges the three to do everything the same they did that night so they don't alter the future, but how fun would that be?

I really wanted to like this movie. I was rooting for it to be funny. And parts of it were, but not enough.

The first problem was the unoriginality. It was so similar to so many other projects that handled aspects better that I kept getting distracted.

The second problem was the tone. It was ugly. It was bitter. Remember how Back to the Future gently mocked but was also lovingly nostaglic about 1955? Or how The Wedding Singer was the same way about 1985? This movie was made by people who hated 1986. Remember how Marty was basically a good guy? These three aren't. (Well, maybe Nick...) Lou is such a self-absorbed nihilist that yes, he does deserve to be abandoned by his friends.

This movie does manage to coast on some of John Cusack's charms, Rob Corddry's manic energy, Craig Robinson's deadpan delivery, and the running gag about Crispin Glover's bellhop who may or may not lose his arm this night. I chuckled a couple times. I got a kick out of William Zabka's cameo. More than half the critics who saw it liked it. I came out feeling flat, saying "Well, it was okaaaay..."

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