Sunday, February 22, 2015

Movie Review: "Hot Tub Time Machine" by David Pretty

This completely loopy comedy doesn't make a lick of sense but it does assault the funny bone with the same intense fervor that Fox News usually reserves for Obamacare.

Here's the high-concept set up: four male friends, bored and disillusioned with adulthood, find themselves teleported back in time by the titular device. They end up at debauchery ground zero: the same ski resort they frequented as carefree youths. Not only has the site been restored to its mid-Eighties glory, so have our forty-something time travelers!

Freshly dumped in the present-day by his latest girlfriend, Adam (John Cusack) gets a second chance with a super-hottie named Jennie. Faced with the prospects of a dead-end job and a cheating wife back in 2010, Nick (Craig Robinson) is once again at the height of a nominal hip-hop career with groupies aplenty. And Lou (Rob Corddry), a self-prescribed metal-head and party animal who's been warning his buddies about the dangers of adult domesticity, finds himself sporting a re-constituted mullet and immersed in a misc-en-scene ripe for insanity.

Adam's Real Life-obsessed 20-year-old nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) gets pulled along for the ride. Although his age remains unaltered he starts to wink in and out of reality with alarming frequency. This begins the film's great debate: do they stay in the past to take advantage of this second kick at the can or do they return to their own era to avoid tampering with the time line? Since responsibility isn't exactly our hero's collective strong suit, this quickly becomes grist for a surprisingly-productive comedy mill.

In retrospect, Adam realizes how vapid Jennie is but this time out he becomes the dumpee. The script conveniently provides him with another potential soul mate: a free-spirited music journalist named April. Despite knowing that his wife is chronically unfaithful, Nick has a hard time sticking to the "we gotta do exactly what we did in 1986" plan. The scene where he weeps uncontrollably while having sex with a groupie is priceless. Lou is particularly conflicted since he's destined to be pummeled into oblivion by ski-instructor Blaine (Sebastian Stan), but he's also back in his element as a wannabe roadie for Motley Crue. Pretty soon he's doing whatever he can to undermine the efforts of his more conscientious buddies.

Gross-out comedies are a dime a dozen so why not recognize the ones that are actually pretty funny? This flick serves up its heart, soul and dignity for your amusement. Director Steve Pink, the screenwriter behind two of my favorite Cusack comedies High Fidelity and Grosse Pointe Blank, keeps things moving with manic energy. If you miss a gag or a funny line reading then just hold on Abigail Mae; in a few seconds a vomit-covered frozen squirrel will meaner into the scene to screw up someone's sure bet.

The screenplay by Josh Heald, Sean Anders and John Morris goes for broke with a veritable conveyor belt of shockingly-tasteless scenes. The presence of Crispin Glover's Phil, whom the other characters want to see maimed in a ghoulishly-nasty moment of fate, is reason enough to watch the film. Sad souls such as myself who actually grew up in that hideously-garish era will have fun spotting other 80's icons like William Zabka, who played Daniel's douchebag rival in The Karate Kid, and Chevy Chase who picks up a check as the hot tub time machine repairman (?).

All the leads are great sports and totally on top of their game. Then again, they'd have to be in order to keep up with Ron Corddry's borderline-psychotic Lou. Everyone knows someone similar to Lou, someone who's clearly not all there but is still strangely endearing probably because you've been through so much together. Credit Corddry for inhabiting a character that's more charming than obnoxious. 

John Cusack is his usual watchable self. Craig Robinson is stellar as well. When Nick drunk-dials his nine-year-old future bride and then calls her down to the dirt I nearly died thanks to Robinson's over-the-top delivery, the sheer audacity of the writers and because I knew what impact it was going to have on his future. Clark Duke's Jacob plays a perfect straight man and main foil to Lou, speaking about the "scientific" properties of the hot tub with straight-faced authority with such lines as: “Hey, I write Stargate fan fiction; this is my bread and butter, man!”

Be prepared to crash around with the characters in Hot Tub Time Machine. The action flies all over the place, things happen for no logical reason, the special effects are ludicrous, and we're often subjected to a torrential checklist of bodily fluids.

Fortunately the movie also happens to be friggin' hilarious.

     Tilt: up.

1 comment:

  1. I don't usually throw the term around, but this has to be one of the worst movie's I've ever seen. I couldn't even handle finishing it. And I've seen a LOT of bad ones.