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Hot Tub Time Machine

2011-08-05 06:25
 
Hot Tub Time Machine

What it's about:


As a way of keeping an eye on an apparently suicidal estranged friend, two middle-aged guys, with the one's geeky nephew in tow, set off for a weekend at a ski resort that was a favourite of theirs in their younger days. They soon find themselves with more than they bargained for as their room's hot tub of the title sends them back to their younger and far more colourful days in the bad old 1980s.

What we thought:

I have no doubt that I was one of the very few film critics to have genuinely high hopes for Hot Tub Time Machine. The title alone seems to have been designed with the sole purpose of putting off "serious" film lovers and regular cinema goers alike. As far as I'm concerned, as someone who thinks that the similarly ridiculously named Buffy The Vampire Slayer is one of the high-water marks in scripted television history, I can't help but be taken by a film that has the audacity to call itself Hot Tub Time Machine. Add to that the involvement of one of my favourite actors in the form of John Cusack and there was surely no way Hot Tub Time Machine could leave me disappointed.

Well, I wish I could say that was the case. Sure, the film does earn every one of those three stars by being a perfectly amusing and entertaining light comedy but I really wanted more, damn it. I know it's probably unfair to judge a film according to what I wanted it to be, rather than what it clearly was but, in this case, I'm going to throw caution and fairness to the wind and do exactly that. I was looking forward to a mixture of the time-traveling fun of Back to the Future with the character comedy that Cusack showed himself to be the master of in such films as Grosse Point Blank, Say Anything and High Fidelity, along with a healthy dollop of the surreal strangeness that the title implies. What I got was something a whole lot less interesting.

The film forgoes all of the potential of the premise by taking a much easier, much lazier route and essentially making the film The Hangover-lite with a bit of time travel shenanigans chucked in for good measure. I liked the Hangover quite a bit and the scatological, frat boy humour was a perfect fit for the kind of film that it was but the same certainly can't be said for Hot Tub Time Machine. The movie's premise is occasionally fulfilled with moments of truly insane, surreal humour (Back to the Future's Crispin Glover is responsible for much of this, making his the standout character of the film) and it doesn't entirely shy away from playing around with the idea of older men being confronted with their younger lives, but all of this is constantly sidelined by frankly boring vomit and sex jokes.

Most egregiously, while The Hangover was redeemed by some truly likable, memorable main characters, Hot Tub fails quite badly in this regard. Craig Robinson and Clark Duke are both perfectly decent as Nick and Jacob but they're far better in The Office and Kick-Ass respectively – not least of all because their characters are simply better drawn. The real problem though is that John Cusack is never allowed to truly shine as Adam, because even if he is the best actor in the film and his character by far the most interesting, he is constantly overshadowed by the sheer awfulness of Rob Corddry's character, Lou, who is given at least as much prominence in the script.

This might be asking a lot but try and think back to the brain-meltingly abysmal, yet thoroughly forgettable What Happens in Vegas from a couple of years back and you might recall the truly hateful, obnoxious best friend character that Corddry plays in that. Well, good news everyone, that character has been resurrected for Hot Tub, only this time, rather than going down with an already sinking ship, he is single-handedly responsible for very nearly capsizing the whole film. Had they simply lost this character we could have been left with a comedy free of the pointless gross-out humour and with far more screen time for characters that we are actually invested in.

I don't exactly like the fact that I wish the suicide attempt depicted in the opening parts of the film was successful, but when you consider the alternative, I would gladly have traded that uneasiness for a film that was actually good, rather than as disappointingly okay as Hot Tub Time Machine ultimately turned out to be.


That in-your-face title performs half the movie's function. The other half is less impressive.

jean 2010/05/21 8:26 PM
Got to say, having seen a lot of the movies you refer to... I believe what you're saying 100%. Safe popcorn flick and nothing more.
Fundiswa 2010/05/24 7:54 AM
Was dissapointed, no wonder there was only 3 ppl at Greenstone @ 10:00 pm to watch, i fel asleep in the middle of the movie.
Preshen Govender 2010/05/24 4:22 PM
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I will never pay to watch old men marinate in a warm pool of there own pubic hair
Brazen 2010/05/27 12:27 PM
I love John Cusack...I would watch him sleep and think it was cool. Looking forward to this film ;)
Philip 2010/05/27 4:25 PM
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I am a huge fan of Cusack's and have been for some time. I will certainly go buy this movie too. Whilst Say Anything appears to be his most popular 80's movie I think any Cusack fan needs to see The Sure Thing... it is just magic!!!! And eighties to the max!!
Ilan Preskovsky 2010/06/22 2:36 PM
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Philip, I actually just saw The Sure Thing for the first time last week after stumbling across it at the video store. You're right it is really terrific. I'm not sure if it's as good as Say Anything but I can definitely see it going down as a favourite of mine.
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