Hot Tub Time Machine: Yet Another Review
Today, I was going to write a review on Avatar. This seemed almost pointless, considering that I was probably the last man on earth to see the movie. Nobody wants to read about how I simply thought to myself the whole time “Hmm, this is what a billion dollars looks like”, or how the experience was overwhelmingly meh. The only thing I got out of the film was an inspiration to kill John Lennon. After realizing that the job had already be done, I decided to see Hot Tub Time Machine.
To get something out of the way, I must express that I have been wholeheartedly excited to see this movie from day one. I love it when movie titles give away the plot for you. There’s no room for cheap jabs and unsuspecting twists in this dog eat dog and then get day job world. I like films that get the job done in an efficient way, without meandering. HTTM is one of those movies. In fact, the opening title sequence is nothing but the title clearly stated over a bunch of pictures of people in hot tubs. We, as an audience, know exactly what we are in for from seeing the title of the movie, and for that, I commend the filmmakers.
If you don’t already know, or haven’t figured out what this film is about, then allow me to summarize it. Three buddies have life shit on them. After a suicide attempt and a few gay jokes, the three of them, along with John Cusacks nephew, go to the ski resort that used to function as their old stomping ground. The place turns out to had been stomped too many times. It is dilapidated, and Crispin Glover is missing an arm. They go into a hot tub, and with an energy drink spill, the hot tub turns into a time machine, taking them back to 1986. The resort is hopping, and Crispin Glover has both arms. Hilarity ensues.
All across the board, the movie satisfied all of my expectations. For the most part, the acting was top notch, the writing provided enough laughs, and the story doesn’t drag at very many occasions. Rob Coddry, who you probably don’t remember from Failure to Launch (Gun Salesman #1) or The Nanny (Man at Party), really brought his character to life. He was a completely wretched, filthy, egotistical asshole. At the beginning of the film, I started to dread spending the next hour and a half with this douchebag (which is exactly how all the characters felt, which means that IT WORKED!). It wasn’t until he jumped into the hot tub naked and told a reluctant Clark Duke “It’s all about male bonding. Haven’t you seen Wild Hogs?”, that the character won me over. Craig Robinson also shined as Nick, a mild mannered “lets have the world stomp all over me and take it” kind of guy. He is the only character that could actually be defined as a “good person”. His character ends up in some comical situations, including performing a musical number “from the future” (but his song choice is unfortunate), but in the end, he learns the least. Probably because he wasn’t an asshole to begin with, so he had no reason to change at all, or at least for the story’s sake. Clark Dukes character functions as more of a plot device. He’s the glue that keeps the story together, literally, by constantly reminding the characters of the plot and what needs to be done. He has some good moments, most of which can’t be mentioned in this review for the sake of not completely spoiling to movie. (Okay, so he’s part of the obligatory incest scene. There you go. It makes me wonder why we can’t have a comedy about time travel that doesn’t involve incestual undertones. Whatever.)
And then that leads us…to John Cusack’s character, Adam. I had to look up the character’s name on imdb, so that should be a sign of how his character pans out. His character is made under the general assumption that we have seen every John Cusack movie from the ’80s. His character is never explained, directly or indirectly. He is a hollow shell of a man that wanders through the movie, pretending to be the center point. In fact, he may be the central character of the movie, which is a goddamn shame, because he offers nothing onto the table. We don’t know why he is so down on his luck, or why girls keep on breaking up with him. All that we know is that he is an insurance salesman that ends relationships. Basically, he is not a hateable character because of his actions or motives, but he is a hateable character because he HAS NO actions or motives. He has a suitcase full of all kinds of drugs, and he spends most of the movie using them, or getting stabbed, or falling in and out of love for seemingly no reason. There is one point in the movie in which a woman approaches him at a Poison concert, while his girlfriend dances on like a stupid bimbo. Because his character is so generic, we automatically know that this plain-looking girl will eventually end up being his. It’s a bunch of cookie cutter bullshit, which is the same thing that was pumped into 80’s comedies, and…shit…wait…this IS an 80s comedy with John Cusack. Nevermind, I take it all back. It just bothers me when there are fleeting moments in the movie where I say to myself “Hey, he’s just like Llyod Dobbler” or “Man, he’s really hurting. Just like Lane Meyer!”. This is cool and heartwarming and everything, but I should be really saying “Wow, just like…Adam?”. See where I’m coming from? Both the actor and the character simply go through the motions.
With my Cusack bitching aside, the film also had some very funny recurring cameos. The role of the “Hot Tub Repairman” is filled by Chevvy Chase, and he plays the part just as Chevvy Chase would. I have to say, I am still completely fucking enthused that he has been getting more work lately, because he really does deserve it. The only problem is, because of the fact that the character disappears at any given time, there isn’t much for him to do. The hotel bellhop is played by Crispin Glover, who ended up being one of the biggest treats in the movie. I was expecting him to just show up on screen for a few seconds, make a Back To The Future reference, and go on his way. This did not happen. Instead, he is faced with a series of hilarious scenarios in which he almost loses his arm. If he was to die tomorrow, I’m glad I would be able to remember him by this character, rather than the strange show I saw him put on at the UICA. Crispin Hellion Glover can still play funny roles. This movie is proof that he hasn’t gone COMPLETELY deranged yet.
Given the context of this movie, I was really intrigued to see what they were going to do with the ’80s setting. As you may already know, I am a watchdog for improperly dating movies, and for the most part, I give the film an A- for effort. They tried really hard to create a proper atmosphere, and for the most part, they succeeded. However, there were some landmark things that was boldly placed into the movie. One example would be the 1986 AFC Championship game between the Denver Broncos and the Cleveland Browns. This was a famously remembered game because of John Elway’s comeback drive to throw the game into overtime. I like what they did with the events surrounding the game, and how things panned out (once again, not trying to spoil anything), but it should have been taken into consideration that the 1986 AFC championship was played in January 1987, thus making the film a year off. Also, it made no sense to me of why a bunch of people at a bar at a ski resort would be rooting against the Broncos, because the movie obviously takes place in Colorado, if not directly said. However, the fact that the infamous game is even in the movie is commendable enough for me to forgive the blunders. You know what also happened in 1987? The release of Salt N Peppas “Push It”, which plays on a radio in one of the scenes. I realize that this could all be fixed if they would have just said the year was 1987, but they didn’t, so I must point these things out.
In the end, there is actually no moral to the movie. Because everything about the movie is so tongue-in-cheek, the ending is also done in the same fashion. Although it probably shouldn’t have happened, everything works out for everyone plus some, and it happened without much character growth. Normally, I would see this as a bad thing, but once again, I must express that I went into the movie expecting to see a bunch of assholes traveling through time, and that is exactly what the movie is. And you know what? It’s really fucking entertaining! So in summary, if you want to see what a billion dollars looks like, go see Avatar. If you want to see a movie that gets to the point and entertains on a lower budget & a much better script, go see Hot Tub Time Machine. You will get exactly what you expect.