Monday, April 12, 2010

Review: Hot Tub Time Machine (dir. Steve Pink)

You know how, when you go to see a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine, you ask yourself, "it's called Hot Tub Time can it NOT be great?"

Turns out it can not be great in so many ways. For one, it could not be funny. I mean, sure it could have some laughs here and there (mostly chuckles with one honest guffaw). For two, it could have a cast of truly stellar comedic actors who could not be less interested in making something of this (except for Rob Corddry, God love him).

Mostly, though, it feels like the entire creative team asked themselves the same question you asked yourself walking into the movie, and pretty much let that do the work for them. Just as you let it do the work in getting you to the theater (I include myself in this, one hundred percent).

More after the jump...

Now admittedly, humor is a very subjective thing, and with a movie as completely shaggy and ill-considered as this, the question of quality starts and stops with "did I laugh?" I can acknowledge that Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story probably isn't very good, but I laugh my ass off every time I watch it. So if you dig Hot Tub Time Machine, it's probably for that reason, and that's fine. But I just didn't laugh all that much, and when I did it wasn't nearly as hard as the movie wanted me to (with the notable exception of Crispin Glover's first scene, mostly because I find anything Crispin Glover does to be hilarious - Alice in Wonderland aside).

The film is theoretically about three friends - Lou (Corddry), Adam (John Cusack), and Nick (Craig Robinson) - who haven't seen much of each other lately but decide to take a trip back to their old party spot, a ski resort, with Adam's nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) in tow. Once there, they find the town in shambles and the resort feels like it was abandoned at a certain point and left to rot. They then go for a hot tub which sends them back through time to 1986, when drugs and women came as easily as turning on the tap. And that's that.

I'll admit - I don't get the appeal of Lou, who the movie is clearly positioning to become the next frat boy icon, along the same lines as Zach Galifiniakis in The Hangover or Will Ferrell in Old School (although all roads eventually lead back to Belushi in Animal House), only he's completely without the charm of those characters. There is a certain innocence to those characters that makes their outrageous, stupid behavior kind of endearing, but Lou is just a bad person. Which isn't to say bad people can't be funny - I stand firmly behind Danny McBride's Kenny Powers of Eastbound and Down, who makes Lou look like a total innocent - but as they say, there's no there there when it comes to Lou. He's completely empty, and for me, I'm past the point where a cutting remark counts as comedy.

But it says something that Corddry's character is by far the least interesting, when emotionally we're even less attached to him than Jacob, who has absolutely no heft in this film, at all. Which, in turn, says something about Adam and Nick. Now, Cusack and Robinson are two of the most reliable performers I can think of, but Cusack's oscillating between leaning on old tricks (this is a pale imitation of the quintessential Cusack character) and complete disinterest, and Robinson is totally out of his comfort zone (which has been typified by his role on The Office, but his funniest work for me remains in Pineapple Express).

For a movie like this, that's the end of it for me - if the characters aren't engaging, I've totally checked out. I suppose, to the movie's credit, they've accurately captured people who have just given up on life, but moreover it becomes clear pretty quick that these people were never interesting, and the wear and tear of life has only made them less so. And to have the movie follow uninteresting people saying the most clever things they can think of...there's exactly as little there as you would imagine. The movie has its moments of insane inspiration - Chevy Chase as a repairman/possible time travel expert comes close - but by and large it's too flat, too dry, too...little.


b said...

best part of the movie was the Black Eyed Peas pre-cover. who knew there was a great, joyful song in there? fergie just needs to die and some horns need to show up

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