27 April 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

Directed by Steve Pink
Written by Josh Heald, Sean Anders and John Morris
Full credits at IMDb

Hot Tub Time Machine—the silliest literal-movie-title since Snakes on a Plane—early on references a few recent and retarded Boy-Bonding movies: Wild Hogs directly, The Hangover allusively, with the suggestion that the main characters “steal a police car”. But the movie—about three middle-aged friends and (why not?) one college-ager who travel back to the 1980s via magic Jacuzzi—never approaches, and hardly tries to, the fun-loving camaraderie of those (awful) men-behaving-badly comedies. Were it not for a few accusations of homosexuality, a skiing accident and some projectile vomit, Hot Tub Time Machine wouldn’t qualify as a comedy at all. It’s actually really sad.

Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and John Cusack—getting Cusack in an ‘80s nostalgia movie is like landing Malkovich for Being John Malkovich—play the movie’s heroes, whom I expected to be middle-aged men disillusioned with their present condition, yearning for the glory of their youths not unlike Matthew Perry in 17 Again, another movie that makes no effort to explain its time-travel mechanisms. But there’re no fond remembrances to be found in Hot Tub Time Machine: in the present, Corddry is an epically angry and suicidal dickhead; Cusack is a lonely hangdog; Robinson is an exhausted cuckold. (Since this is a movie about time travel and the '80s, Crispin Glover also turns up, amazingly stripped of any eccentricity for the second time this year.) The moment the characters wind up back in 1986, they’re just as depressed as they already were.

Thanks to the (il)logic of the time-shifting conceit, the characters are simply forced to relive the humiliations of their youth, to re-confront past emotional pains. (Ignore the brief attempts to grapple with free will vs. determinism.) Their miserable present-day lives are the results of bad choices that were already in motion 20 years in the past. “We had Reagan and AIDS,” Cusack says, summing up the decade. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.” Pain permeates almost every line and action in the movie—even the “happy ending” merely implies that money whitewashes suffering, if not buys happiness—but director Pink seems totally oblivious to it, treating the movie as a wacky comic throwback; it’s like he can see the actors in front his camera, but can’t hear what they’re saying. As such, the movie’s tonally fucked, neither funny like it wants to be nor depressing like it is on paper. Grade: C

Watch the trailer:

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