Yeah, yeah, I still saw it despite various less-than-laudatory reviews. I had to know for myself! And whaddya know, Hot Tub Time Machine, while not exactly living up to its invigorating title, is generally pretty funny. The story concerns former best friends Adam (John Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson), and Lou (Rob Corddry), who have drifted apart as they’ve reached the humdrum of middle age, and Adam’s shut-in slacker nephew Jacob (Clark Duke).
After the alcoholic Lou appears to attempt suicide, they all come together at a dilapidated ski lodge, once a happenin’ teen hangout in the 80’s, where the older friends had their best times as teens. When they settle into their room’s adjacent hot tub, they find themselves magically transported back to 1986, to a pivotal night for each of the four men. With the older dudes back in their 80’s bodies, they go about the business of reliving better, sexier times, while Jacob tries to keep them from messing up the space-time continuum and preventing him from being conceived.
Hmm. There are some mixed feelings happening here. I think I’ll break it down into a “Things I Liked” and “Things I Didn’t Like” assortment.
Things I liked:
The cast is of course, swell, and there are some good performances here. Rob Corddry always devotes himself 100% to any role, which I applaud, and I liked his portrayal of the raucous, rough-edged Lou, even though at times it was a little too much. Craig Robinson is fun, putting in a sort of spacey, easily-rattled persona, and I loved the idea of him being a former rock star. Clark Duke is awesome, and I loved seeing him with a decent-sized role. He has a wonderful low-key, likable humor about him and he’s probably my favorite part of the film, along with Lizzy Caplan’s ever-adorable appearance. Crispin Glover is hilarious in this movie, and I really dug the running gag about violent arm dismemberment (morbid as that sounds).
Ok so to be honest I laughed quite a bit at this movie. The script has some pretty good one-liners and goofy jokes. There are a lot of digs at the 80’s that I enjoyed, and there are one or two cool references to comedies of the period. I liked the stereotypical, anti-Communist frat boy villains and the bad hair and antiquated technology. These things are funny because they’re true (but of course in an exaggerated fashion). The premise is ridiculous, obviously, but I do enjoy things about time travel in general, so I was cool with it.
Things I didn’t like:
Even though John Cusack isn’t as awful as I’d been led to believe, he does indeed appear to just be going through the paces. I love the man and he’s definitely done his share of mediocre films, but it’s always sad to see him falter when I know he can do well with almost any kind of material. His popularity arose from goofy 80’s comedies, so his casting should have been perfect, but he seems to have lost the necessary skills. Then again, he is playing a sort of boring, jaded character so I guess his performance is apt. In other casting news, there’s not enough Lizzy Caplan here. She is so great, people, why is she not in everything? Gee whiz.
While I do enjoy the premise, the story is all over the place. There’s all this talk about how they lost their friendship and how their lives have become screwed up ever since, but it’s not really elaborated and most of the film focuses on their individual problems instead of their issues as a group. Together, these guys are quite fun to watch, but separately I didn’t especially care about them. The script would have done much better to keep the story centered on their relationship to one another and how they deal with their situation as a team.
Also, there are too many weird jokes about homosexuality, and the ending is strange. It sort of made me sad because (SPOILER ALERT), it just means that these guys have had 20 years’ worth of great experiences that they can’t remember.
So Hot Tub Time Machine basically breaks even, because while it is certainly flawed and often uninspired, I can’t deny that I laughed out loud multiple times and I really like the cast and wacky premise. While I don’t regret seeing it, I’d much rather watch goofy comedies that are actually from the 80’s. Oh wait has it been a few days since I’ve seen Better Off Dead? Well that needs to be rectified!