Sunday, March 28, 2010
TEFB REVIEW: HOT TUB TIME MACHINE
Directed by Steve Pink
Starring John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry
Sometimes you need a movie like Hot Tub Time Machine. A movie as silly, stupid, and dumb as its name suggests, but one that's so consistently hilarious that, by the end, you're actually glad is silly, stupid, and dumb. Hot Tub Time Machine is a film that gleefully embraces its over the top title and high-concept plot, and that glee translates to an hour and a half of pure funny.
After their friend Lou (Rob Corddry) accidentally poisons himself with carbon monoxide (revving his engine in a closed garage while singing Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home"), his friends Adam (John Cusack) and Nick (Craig Robinson) plan a trip to Kodiak Valley, a ski vacation destiny they used to frequent as hormonally abundant teenagers. With Adam's nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) in tow, the estranged men hope to rekindle their friendship and rediscover themselves by reliving their youth. They get to do this literally when, after a night of heavy boozing and other drugging, they discover the hot tub they partied in catapulted them through the space-time continuum back to the year 1986. They realize they've been sent to a pivotal weekend in their lives, a weekend involving Kodiak Valley's Winterfest '86, a Poison concert, a break-up, a beat-up, and a knock-up. Can they fix the hot tub, which broke after the time travel, and make it back to the future without changing anything?
What makes Hot Tub Time Machine work, even when the film swipes at low-hanging comedy fruit (the fashion, music, hair-styles, and pop-culture of the '80's is way too easy to skewer), is the chemistry and go-for-broke work of the lead actors. John Cusack has racked up an impressive list of performances both dramatic and comedic, and in Hot Tub Time Machine demonstrates he's not embarrassed to still be acting like a fool in his mid forties. Craig Robinson steals the show in practically every film he's in (he's one of the highlights of Pineapple Express) and has a knack for off-the-cuff one liners. Newcomer Clark Duke holds his own against the more experienced actors, and although the part he plays is more of a straight man to the goofballs, he has no shortage of very funny lines. And Rob Corddry excels at playing the love-able, egotistical jerk that you hate so much you love ("he's like the asshole of the group, but he's our asshole", explains Nick).
Supporting the main players are a mix of comedy veterans and relative newcomers. Chevy Chase has a small role as the hot tub handy man (a role that elicits a few laughs but ultimately isn't as funny as it should be) and Crispin Glover (who gets some of the films funniest moments and is involved in a gut-busting running gag regarding arm dismemberment) plays a disgruntled bellhop. Not to be outdone in the raunch department by their male counterparts, the female costars forgo embarrassment for a laugh almost as much as the men do. The unbelievably gorgeous Collette Wolfe has some especially great moments, playing Adam's slutty, ditzy, hard-partying sister.
Because of the great comedic pedigree of its stars, Hot Tub Time Machine works best when it lets its lead players react to a moment or work their way through a scene with offending and raunchy verbiage. There are scenes involving body-fluid and toilet humor, but thankfully the film doesn't rely on vomit and poo to sustain the laughs. The film is as quotable as other recent notable comedies like The Hangover and Superbad, but you probably won't be able to say any of its funniest lines in front of your priest, wife, husband, sister, mom, dad, coworkers, or dog, lest you have a bar of soap shoved in your mouth.
Not everything about Hot Tub Time Machine works. I glossed over Chevy Chase before because the film pretty much does as well. Chase is a funny, funny man, and it's disappointing to see him wasted in this. Also, the film falters when trying to inject some heart into the funny, but I suppose it wouldn't be a tribute to '80's comedy if the friends didn't learn some deep life lesson at the end of the film.
All in all, though, Hot Tub Time Machine is a joy to watch. A film isn't funny just because it pushes the boundaries of good taste. Luckily, HTTM blasts through those boundaries and comes out the other side covered in laughs.