Monday, September 27, 2010
Steve Pink’s second feature film as a director, Hot Tub Time Machine, is about a group of four guys who travel back to time in, yes you guessed it, a hot tub. Between Accepted (2006) and Hot Tub Time Machine I would say Steve Pink has been fortunate to work with some fairly talented actors, but talent isn’t everything as Hot Tub Time Machine proves.
Four guys who pretty much suck at life decide to take a weekend trip to their favorite resort from their youth. When they arrive, they realize that they are not the only ones who have gotten older and duller, as the town is in disrepair and now a senior citizen hotspot and a shelter for cats. After a lot of alcohol and illegal substances, the four stumble into the hot tub, where they short circuit the controls and travel back to 1986. Presented with the opportunity to relive their fondest memories they are challenged to get back to present-day while changing as little as possible.
John Cusack (2012) plays Adam, the main character, an insurance agent who just got dumped. I haven’t seen many of Cusack’s films, but I never pegged him as a comedic actor, and this film proves me right. John Cusack is talented, don’t get me wrong, but he just isn’t a comedic lead. Craig Robinson (The Office) plays Nick, a failed musician and emasculated man. Rob Corddry (Operation: Endgame) plays Lou, a suicidal loser with a drinking problem (and not the funny kind of drinking problem like in Airplane!). Clark Duke (Kick-Ass) plays Jacob, the stereotypical modern teenager/young-adult who is more comfortable with a computer than with people. With average performances, even Chevy Chase’s appearance did nothing to improve the film, which left the viewer with a sense that the actors were underutilized.
As far as raunchy comedies go, Hot Tub Time Machine wastes no time being raunchy but it takes too long to find the comedy, if it even manages to find it at all. Within the first twelve minutes of the film there are two gross-out jokes and no other jokes. I almost turned it off after the second one involving a catheter, but I let it play. The writers of Hot Tub Time Machine love movies because there are several obscure references to other films throughout this one. The best moment of the film is when Craig Robinson looks directly at the camera and says, “It must be some sort of hot tub time machine.” Not only where the characters flat, but the events in the film weren’t interesting and Hot Tub Time Machine never presented us with a sense of urgency for the characters to return to the present.* If you enjoy seeing bodily fluids in movies, by all means check out Hot Tub Time Machine. If you demand a little more sophistication from your comedies, skip this one and watch Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007) or The Hangover (Todd Phillips, 2009) as they achieve the right balance between crass and comedy.
*With the exception of the character of Jacob, I don’t see why any of the other characters had to return to the present. In fact, there is more motivation for them to stay behind, like Lou did, and relive their youth. That way they’d not only be able to become closer as friends, but they would be able to remember important events, instead of being surprised when they arrived back in the future.
© 2010 Nate Phillipps