Justin does Hot Tub Time Machine

“Did you have pineapple today?”

The Scoop: 2010 R, directed by Steve Pink and starring John Cusack, Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry

Tagline: Kick Some Past (or, according to star Rob Corddry, “Based on the incredible true story”)

Summary Capsule: An arthouse film set in pre-Revolution France, this movie surprisingly has nothing to do with hot tubs or time machines. Isn’t it ironic?

drewbanner

Drew’s Rating: I waited around for hours for 50-year-old Drew to turn up and write something clever here, but the slacker never showed.

Drew’s Review: This may be the shortest review I’ve ever written. Not because I didn’t enjoy Hot Tub Time Machine — quite the opposite — but because if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve already formed your opinion on the movie, which seeing the film proper will not change one iota. If you saw the trailer and thought, “That looks hilarious!”, great — please continue reading. If you saw it and thought, “This looks like the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen,” no hard feelings — we have many reviews of films about gay cowboys eating pudding elsewhere on the site, feel free to browse those instead.

The irony is that I saw Hot Tub Time Machine with the most pretentious of all my friends, the one who recently edited the MRFH Wikipedia page to suggest that I’ve sent a series of increasingly revealing self-photos to Kevin Smith. (That’s true, by the way. What can I say, I’ve got a thing for the thickness.) In fact, it was his idea; his exact phrasing was, “I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of in the mood to see a movie about some kind of swimming pool-like, heated water device that allows one to travel through time. Is there anything like that out?” Which just goes to show, if you scoff at the idea of Hot Tub Time Machine, it’s not because you’re a super left wing pseudo-intellectual… it’s because you just don’t like fun. Nonetheless, it bears emphasizing: this is not a movie with layers. What you saw in the trailer is what you’ll get, just with more swearing, vulgarity, and funny. Take it or leave it.

Still need a plot summary? Fine: friends who have drifted apart, Adam (Cusack) and Nick (Robinson), receive word that their pal Lou (Corddry) recently tried to kill himself. Despite Lou’s insistence that any actual suicide attempt on his part would involve a shotgun to the nuts, the trio decide to reconnect with a trip to their old stomping grounds in Kodiak Valley ski resort, bringing Adam’s nerdy nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) along for the ride. Though the resort has fallen on hard times, the guys attempt to relive their glory days by means of a drunken bender in the outdoor hot tub. Cue wild montage, alcohol getting spilled on the controls, and when they wake up the next morning: 1986, bitches. Now in the bodies of their younger selves (except Jacob), the gang reluctantly agree to do everything exactly the way they remember it so as not to screw up the future (including getting forked in the eye and beat up by ski patrollers), until that gets to be a drag and they start doing whatever they want to make things better in the moment. Hey, if you won’t help your dad knock out Biff, what kind of son are you?

The only thing I can tell you in this entire review that really matters is that Hot Tub Time Machine is funny. It doesn’t rely solely on its ludicrous premise to generate laughs, but actually has some good lines and visual gags. While it’s not an Apatow film, it carries a similar vibe, which should help you zero in on whether you’re going to enjoy it or not. Mind you, not everything about the movie works. John Cusack’s character is by far the least interesting, and his love interest never really captures the lively free spirit we’re apparently supposed to view her as. And while I doubt you would anyway, don’t go in expecting originality; if you’ve seen a time travel movie and a coming-of-age comedy at some point in your life, you already have all the “plot” developments and character arcs mapped out. Let’s see, there’s the guy who always got his ass kicked and hid behind a frat boy persona, the guy who abandoned his music aspirations and allows his wife to boss him around and cheat on him, and the guy who can’t seem to keep a relationship going or find the right woman. What do YOU think will happen? The only real surprise for me is that I expected young Jacob to learn why it’s important to talk with women in person rather than online because they’re more likely to want to get to know you and maybe even knock boots. Spoiler: he doesn’t, although don’t discount that as a possible deleted story arc when the inevitable “Massaging Jets Edition” DVD hits.

Because I am nothing if not helpful, I’ve assembled the following questionnaire to help you determine whether this is the right movie for you. If you find yourself wondering how the hot tub became a time machine in the first place, this is not your movie. If you’re left pondering how Chevy Chase seems to know so much about the time machine and what cosmic purpose he serves, this is not your movie. And if you wonder [SPOILERS] how the guys can make changes to the past without causing a paradox or altering their own memories when they return to the future, then this is really not your movie. [END SPOILERS] Everyone else, have a blast. Be sure to tell my elementary school self not to be such a wiener while you’re at it. And that the girl who had a crush on me in first grade? Grows up hot. Damn.

Justin’s Rating: What do hot tubs, phone booths, DeLoreans and SkyNet have in common?  I don’t know, but I’m sure it’s a paradox!

Justin’s Review: When my wife and I went to see Hot Tub Time Machine, we knew that this was — most likely — the last movie we’d get to see in a theater for another half year or so.  We knew this because as the movie progressed, my wife was timing her contractions to the minute, which meant we were in for a few months of house-bound fun.  So this film experience, for better or worse, was going to have to tide us over for the time being.

Unfortunately, despite a few positive recommendations from friends, I think we chose poorly.  It’s not that HTTM is a terrible movie — there are moments of great comedy and interesting bits, for sure — but that it really took the lazy way out and decided that gross-out gags, extreme profanity and the mere concept of the plot was enough to carry it on through to the end credits.  This is, of course, the latest casualty of the whole Judd Apatow R-rated comedy epidemic, where good writing, clever jokes and likable characters are crudely shoved aside for a torrent of boobs, F-bombs and drugs.  It’s an exciting premise gone limp by Act 2, and that, my friends, is a high-fallutin’ shame.

The thing is, Hot Tub Time Machine has an incredible deck of cards in its favor: it capitalizes off of the 80’s retro craze, it has terrific actors (John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry), it utilizes time travel, and it has a great setting (a popular ski lodge).  Heck, it even references Red Dawn (Wolverines!) and Back to the Future in a way that I can get behind.

Yet at almost every turn, the film makes the lazy choice to gun for whatever profane point it can hit next instead of giving a crap about the characters, the actual plot or the many, many wasted opportunities for comedy gold that are just waiting to be mined.

For example, here you have John Cusack in the lead role.  John-freaking-Cusack, Mr. 80’s Comedy himself!  This had every chance of being one of the greatest callbacks to what made 80’s comedies so awesome, and yet they push him into a depressed, apathetic role that doesn’t give us much to root for, never mind love.  There’s nothing to anchor his character around, other than him feeling as if he wasted his life, so he just drifts from the start to the end without anything to his credit.

Another example would be the way the plot picks up and discards ideas without any consistency.  I know, it’s just a silly comedy, but it’s frustrating to watch a movie where it has a cool idea and then just lets it go in favor of a new one, over and over again.  The whole time travel thing is never really explained, and at times the plot makes the point that they have to do everything exactly as they did before (why?), which they do for a while until they just… don’t.  Three of the adult characters who are sent back in time look like their younger selves (except to us and each other), but the fourth doesn’t change in age whatsoever because the filmmakers obviously couldn’t figure out how to work around the fact he wasn’t born yet in ’86.  There’s also the really annoying point of that guy saying he was just 20 or 21 in 2010, but he was conceived in 1986, which is one of those glaring slipups I thought  movie studios paid people to catch.

The worst sin of all is that there’s no clear motivation for any of the characters, which is kind of like reading a book where the author decides, chapter by chapter, to change what the characters are doing and why because the author can’t settle down and pick just one.  Are they desperately trying to get back to 2010?  Are they trying to make better decisions in the past to change the future?  Are they just having fun?  Are the ski patrol guys the villains?  Does Chevy Chase deserve a paycheck for what appears to be a day of wandering around the set muttering to himself?  Seriously, if I wrote a short story in the same vein of this plot, every English professor on the planet would fail me.

Anyway, I know I’m getting all twisted up over what’s just — as my mom calls the genre — a “fart movie”, but I can’t help it.  Every fiber of my being cries out that this could’ve been a huge hit, a terrific retro comedy, a swan song to my favorite decade, and yet it just plops on the sidewalk like neon-colored dung and stinks up the place for a little while.

It's not the most homoerotic thing I've ever seen. But top five? Yeah.

Intermission!

  • Okay, I’m invoking the sacred Mutant Code on this one: if you’ve ever yelled out “Shia LeBeouf!” during sex, you are hereby obligated to ‘fess up in our forums. (For the record, I have not. Just don’t ask about Zac Efron. I’m not made of stone.)
  • Sure, Michael J. Fox played “Johnny B. Goode” in the past, but he never had the Black-Eyed Peas. Let’s get it started, ha!
  • We’re told that Jacob is too young to drink legally, but if the guys travel back from 2010 to 1986 and Jacob was born nine months later, he should be 23 or 24.
  • I can truthfully say, even if I someday find myself hurled back in time and know the outcome of every sporting event, I will never, EVER offer that as a wager. Because you just never know.
  • [SPOILERS] Don’t expect the logistics of time travel to make much sense, like the issue of Jacob’s parentage. In the original timeline, Lou is certain that he never hooked up with Adam’s sister. The altered timeline has him seducing Kelly to create Jacob, which raises the question of who Jacob’s father was before the time journey, and why he looks exactly the same either way. Best not to think too much about it. [END SPOILERS]

Groovy Quotes

      Lou [on phone]: Whatever, semantics. I want an “escort” to

escort

      our penises into her vagina.

Jacob: You don’t think it’s weird, a bunch of guys just piling up in a big bathtub together?
Lou: It’s called male bonding, okay? Haven’t you even seen Wild Hogs?

Jacob: This is scientifically possible!
Lou: Tell us how it’s scientifically possible, Professor Hawking.
Jacob: I will, ’cause I write Stargate fanfiction! This is my bread and butter, man.
Lou: Oh my God, I seriously almost passed out, you’re such a dork.

Adam: You look like Kid n’ Play!
Nick: That’s actually two people.

Jacob: Come on, do I really gotta be the [butt]hole that says we got in this thing and went back in time?

Kelly: Tonight I’m gonna find myself a sexy ski instructor, and I’m gonna wax his pole.
Jacob: What she means is that she works at the ski rental place, right, and that’s her job, is cleaning the poles?

Lou: Did you have pineapple today?

If You Liked This Movie, Try These

  • Back to the Future
  • The Hangover
  • Grosse Point Blank
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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Movie News « Mutant Reviewers From Hell

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