March 28, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine (03/28/10)

Lettergrade: D

I think we can agree that Hot Tub Time Machine has one of the greatest titles in recent cinema history. The movie itself, though, tries waaaaay too hard and is only occasionally funny, with some long segments in between that range from lame to downright painful.

I've always liked John Cusack, Rob Cordory and The Office's Craig Robinson, but was really turned off by the broken, bitter adults that they are at the beginning of the movie, as well as the shallow, coke snortin' punks that they are shown to have been when the high-temperature aerated water recreational device from the film's title is revealed to have quantum disruption properties and transports them back into the bodies of their 1986 selves.

You'd think that the premise - which borrows liberally from Back To The Future, The Wedding Singer, and the NBC classic Quantum Leap (with a dash of The Hangover thrown in for good measure) - would be fertile ground for big laughs, but there's simply too much dark stuff surrounding all the characters in this one for the comedy to take off. In the middle of the movie, when Cusack has to relive a traumatic breakup that he never really recovered from the first time, he locks himself in his hotel room and snorts a mountain of cocaine as well as any other drug he can get his hands on. I guess the joke is supposed to be that it was the 80s and coke was everywhere, but did the filmmakers really think that a frighteningly self-destructive scene like that was funny? Toward the beginning of the picture, all the college friends gather because Rob Cordoy's adult life sucks so hard that he tries to drink himself into a coma before attempting to asphyxiate himself in his garage. Cue the Benny Hill music.

There are some really funny supporting bits from Crispin Glover as a bell-hop with a grim future, and from Chevy Chase, who as others have noted, basically plays the Don Knotts role from Pleasantville by way of one his personas from the Fletch movies. Nevertheless, the fact that guys like that are around to sprinkle the movie with added craziness only makes the picture seem more uneven and schizophrenic.

Maybe the original idea for this movie was that it would be a dark comedy about roads not taken in life. Even if that was once true, it was clearly retooled to try to get as much of The Hangover's audience as it could. Hot Tub Time Machine isn't funny enough to sit along side that movie or other Cusack work like 1985's classic Better Off Dead or 1997's much loved Gross Pointe Blank (which, like, this movie, was directed by Cusack's long-time producing partner Steve Pink). It's not really deep or interesting enough to qualify as a movie with much substance either, which leads me to that frequent question I ask myself at movies these days: What the hell did they think it was when they were making it?

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