Sunday, July 4, 2010

Time Traveling Hot Tub-Thumpers Trip Up

Hot Tub Time Machine


What happens when three pseudo-BFFs get sent back in time to 1986 to – well - do something (it’s really not too clear)? You get the beyond lame Hot Tub Time Machine, which could easily be called Back to Bill & Ted’s Excellent (But Not in This Case) Future Adventure for how transparently it rips off Back to the Future and Bill & Ted.

The movie stars John Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson as late 30-somethings totally unhappy with their adult lives, and Clark Duke as Cusack’s aimless basement-dwelling, Second Life-playing 20-something nephew. This Less-than-Fantastic Four gets sent back in time to a Colorado ski lodge for reasons the script by Josh Heald, Jared Paul and Sean Anders doesn’t make clear. They are all losers in the present day, so you think they’re magically transported back to 1986 to relive a pivotal weekend that set the tone for their adult lives, but that’s really not the case. Cusack broke up with a girlfriend in that time (in the future, his wife has just left him), Corddry is a loud-mouthed, foul-mouthed loser who got beat up that weekend (in the future, he’s a loud-mouthed, foul-mouthed loser who put himself in the hospital at the start of the story) and Robinson wussed out on an open mic night with his band (as a grown-ass man, he works at a dog grooming salon).

When they realize when they are they, at first, party it up, but are still mindful of the “butterfly effect” which might change their future if they trample over some seemingly trivial item, but soon they start to deviate from the details of that night, starting with Cusack whose girlfriend changes history and breaks up with him instead of him dumping her, and he quickly meets a magazine journalist (played by the always great and lovely Lizzy Caplan) in town to cover the band Poison that’s playing the ski lodge’s festival. The events they relive just aren’t major enough to justify where their adult lives end up, so the movie drops the ball there. In Back to the Future Marty's entire existence hinged on getting his parents together at the dance (and he had SEVERAL obstacles to overcome to ensure that outcome). The equivalent here for Cusack's Adam is after getting dumped by his pretty but vapid girlfriend he gets to hang out a little with Caplan and his life will automatically change for the better?

Here’s the major problem with this movie (aside from the fact it’s not that funny - there's only sporadic laughs throughout): I didn’t care about these guys. None of them is very likable. They also never act like true friends, until, of course, the end of the movie demands it. Cusack looked tired and confused through the entire movie (he was great in Grosse Point Blank, another movie featuring some serious 80s music, which was co-written by, among others, Steve Pink, who directed this film). Rob Corddry is NOT funny. Let me say that again, casting directors and filmmakers: ROB CORDDRY IS NOT FUNNY. He always comes across as an abrasive asshole, and that’s the limits of his acting ability. If he was a FUNNY abrasive asshole I might be able to tolerate him, but he is not (John Belushi in Animal House was a foul-mouthed, brain-addled alcoholic and Peeping Tom, but he was also charming and very funny). Craig Robinson is terrific…in The Office where he has a great character to play, but not here, where it seems like he’s just ad-libbing most of the time.

The movie really didn’t make use of its 1986 setting, which was mostly brought to life by the bright, multi-colored ski jackets of the resort goers. The story made no comment about those times versus now – not the music, the attitudes, the mores, nothing. It easily could have been set at their college graduation or ten years ago or last week.

The movie ends in a much undeserved way*, by basically forgetting everything that came before it and giving the guys something they simply did not deserve. If I had a hot tub time machine I’d go back in time and prevent them from making this pointless and not very funny movie.

(*SPOILER: Here's the ending - leave now - Corddry stays in the past and uses his knowledge of the future to set himself up as a multi-millionaire, which somehow gives him the solid family life he never had, and also all his friends are now super-successful. What a big fat cheat.)

Star Trek images (C) 2010 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is intended with this parody. Screencaps from

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