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Mar272010

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE...so the 80s weren't so great after all? (Review)

Rating:  (Passable)

It's interesting how each generation chooses to immortalize the decade of their youth. None are more colorful and blow-dried than the 1980s. Hot Tub Time Machine celebrates the 80s by mimicking films like Back to the Future and sending its cast to a ski resort in 1986. It's supposed to be a hilarious, nostalgic romp through time, but I never got the feeling I traveled anywhere. There were some laughs, but everything about Hot Tub Time Machine feels like an 80s party in 2010. Its featured guests: Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, John Cusack, and Clark Duke

Perhaps Hot Tub's setting is its problem. According to lore, the 1980s were packed full of ski lodges. They were more popular than ice cream. Unfortunately, this 25-year-old ski lodge doesn't look any different than it would today. There are plenty of neon spandex-wearing skiers and retro videos playing on TVs (think "I want my MTV!"), but the changes are ornamental and the TVs don't look that old. I think I've even seen people wearing clothes like these. If the actual 1980s were like this, I didn't miss much.

Let me back track a bit. Here's the setup. Adam's (John Cusack) wife left him. Jacob (Clark Duke), his twenty-something nephew spends most of his time in Adam's basement doing jail time...in Second Life. There here are consequences to your actions, even in Second Life, and Jacob plans to live with them. Nick (Craig Robinson from The Office) used to be in a rockin' band, but spends his days working at a dog primping salon called "Sup Dawg." He also has issues with his wife. Then there's Lou (Rob Corddry). He's the asshole of the group. Seriously, he is an asshole. Why they hang out with him, I don't know, but they do. Because of Lou's drunken antics, the group takes a trip to Kodick Valley, the ski resort from their youth. The place is an empty mess and its bellhop, Phil (Crispin Glover, aka George McFly), is an angry one-armed man. Luckily, the tub works. After a night of hot tub debauchery, the gang wakes up in the 80s. What a premise. 

Hot Tub has its moments. Director Steve Pink is well aware he's making a ridiculously stupid movie and the cast has fun playing along. The gang instantly realizes that changing anything in the past could have a butterfly effect on the future (you know, like that Ashton Kutcher movie), and decide that they must relive the past exactly as it happened before. This is less fun than it sounds. These guys really didn't have a great time in the 80s, despite their nostalgia. 

Most of the villains have great names like Blaine, and look like they belong in a Cobra Kai dojo. Terminator's time travel plot is also explained to good effect. Sadly, some of the more genuinely funny moments are tainted by gross-out humor and ideas borrowed from The Hangover and other "guys go drinking" movies. Expect moments of projectile vomit, a giant fall from a big cliff, some guy peeing in a toilet only to be surprised and start peeing outside the bowl, and a big oral challenge. Luckily, these moments don't dominate the movie. The problem is, nothing does.

I didn't dislike Hot Tub Time Machine, but I didn't leave impressed. There are some genuine laughs, but few hysterical moments. For a movie keenly aware of how stupid it is, this trip to the 1980s is pretty tame. It's Wild Hogs for thirty-somethings. 

It won't be long before we start seeing slews of movies immortalizing the 1990s. I look forward to it, but hopefully we won't need a Hot Tub Time Machine to remember them. 

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