March 18, 2010

Review: Some Kind of 'Hot Tub Time Machine'

There is not a lot that needs to be said about Hot Tub Time Machine. The entire plot synopsis is described in the title's four simple words, so enough said. If you, like me, are sold that alone, its premise and the involvement of likeable actors and comedians such as John Cusack, Rob Corddry (The Daily Show), and Craig Robinson (The Office), you will be more than pleased with the results of this seemingly one-note comedy film.

Hot Tub Time Machine, although I am sure conceived and shot without prior awareness, is really trying to be positioned as this year's The Hangover. But instead of a somewhat interesting, believable intricate plot that cleverly unfolds itself with hysterics, this film takes a ridiculous premise and much dumber situations and riffs on our self aware expectations with a lot of predictable, but genuinely funny gags and great one-liners. While not nearly as sophisticated or clever as the aforemention, The Hangover, Hot Tub Time Machine delivers a lot of really good laughs and is probably just as good a ride.

I must say, the very simple, basic, wildly stupid premise of travelling back in time in order to right your subpar existence in the present and pack in some 1980s nostalgia, dick jokes, and sight gags is pretty well executed in Hot Tub Time Machine.

The story, very wisely, starts almost immediately and is very well paced, never labouring its weak plot mechanics. The four friends show up quickly at the titular hot tub with some interesting results. All the subplots and side stories of suicide, break ups, lack of social lives, bullying and cheating wives are downplayed in order to move the comedy forward. I was surprised at how much plotting and script there actually was, considering the movie was filmed largely without a completed script. The movie never wears out its welcome.

Hot Tub Time Machine rises above its limited premise to provide a lot of fun and laughs and really engage the audience with raunchy gags and dick jokes. Everyone trashes and makes fun of the film's ridiculous plot within the film with Back to the Future and Terminator references. Crispin Glover even shows up in a supporting role, sans an arm, to parody his pop culture legacy as George McFly. All the archetypes are there as Cusack is the cool guy who hates his life. Robinson has the crappy job and and is whipped by his wife. Duke is the nerd who does not get out much. That leaves Corrdry as the crazy alcoholic who stirs up trouble.

This movie is a lot of fun and downplays its negatives while extenuating the positive aspects, primarily the humour and chemistry of its cast. Director Steve Pink (Accepted) injects all the clich├ęs and cinematic troupes of '80s movies as John Cusack plays a jaded, cynical grown up version of Lloyd Dobler complete with trench coat and gloves. The improvised jokes and casual banter shines as the cast clearly had a good time making this film. The most annoying part of the movie is Chevy Chase (Community) as the hot tub repairman. He is unfunny and groan-worthy every time he shows up on screen. I have a feeling his scenes were largely and wisely excised from much of the final cut. Luckily, his scenes are sparse.

This is a good old-fashion guy movie. I love the way the characters embrace the cinematic troupes and stylings of the 1980s and self-aware nature of the scenes. Craig Robinson and Clark Duke play to the camera as they mock the idea of travelling through time in a hot tub. The allusions and references to the likes of Red Dawn and The Karate Kid are amusing.

There is certainly nothing wrong with a few talented actors getting together and having a good time on screen while making fun and parodying the kinds of movies they usually star in, lampooning the industry they are in. Hot Tub Time Machine is by no means anything new or even all that original but I could not help leaving the theatre with a smile, having a good time, and laughing throughout the movie. It is light fare and definitely re-watchable as a mocking play of genre comedy. The film really should not be as watchable as it is and the 80s soundtrack is great. I mean it's called Hot Tub Time Machine, need I say more?
"The basic idea for Hot Tub Time Machine is so dumb, so reductive, so limited in its possibilities, that it just has to be good, doesn’t it?"Ken Eisner

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