06 April 2010
At the movies: Hot Tub Time Machine.
After a longtime friend (Rob Corddry, from The Daily Show) tries to kill himself (to a Mötley Crüe song, no less), his buddies (John Cusack, Craig Robinson) and a hanger-on nephew (Clark Duke) decide to head off to the mountains and revisit the ski town where they had some of their most defining moments back in the day. But add an illegal Russian energy drink into the mix, and the four soon find themselves hurled by Jacuzzi through time itself. Now, their time is short before they find themselves trapped in 1986 forever.
Blessed with a title that lays out everything you could need to know, Hot Tub Time Machine has been building on its can’t-miss premise as well as star Cusack’s own 80s nascent stardom as a way to pull in the nostalgia crowd as well as modern youngsters who don’t get why New Order or The English Beat are awesome.
Robinson has long been the secret comedic weapon of recent subversive cinema, and he gets several moments here that no one else could have pulled off. Likewise, Corddry goes for the gusto in every scene, and the two together are pure gold. Cusack underplays, which allows him to get to a much weirder place than he usually allows himself, and Duke (whose work I was unfamiliar with) is amiable and awkward in exactly the necessary proportions.
If it weren’t for a slack reel in the middle and some gratuitous homophobia (and by that I mean the duelling sports bet BJ sequence and a few F-fords), Hot Tub Time Machine would be a classic. As it is, it’s still generally an utter delight; unafraid of going to the darker side (the Greenberg-ier side?) of human despair (and laying some well-deserved blame on friends who don’t return their friends’ phone calls) or getting weird with the tyrannies of love and memory.
The 80s material seems slapdash, but the soundtrack choices are rightfully awesome; if Hot Tub Time Machine is a little off as an 80s film, it’s a superb time travel movie and well worth your time.
My only Class A-complaint is that of all the songs recorded and performed between 1986 and 2010, a character determined to wow an audience chooses "Let's Get it Started" by Black-Eyed Peas. I'm sorry, what?
Hats off to Crispin Glover and whoever did the music supervision.