Sunday, November 21, 2010

It's Not Even Funny, It's Just Bad: Hot Tub Time Machine Flops!

The Good: Initially novel concept, Decent casting
The Bad: Not terribly funny, No character development, Predictable, Foul language, Uninspired acting
The Basics: With only one or two laughs, Hot Tub Time Machine is easy to avoid as it uses actors in familiar ways to tell a ridiculous story.

[When I wrote this review originally, I was actually at the preview screening for Hot Tub Time Machine. Despite the movie being out now on DVD, I decided to keep my original opening. I stand by my panning of the film largely because the other night, while my wife was ill, I got the movie out from the library and my wife and I were so bored by it that we fell asleep while it was on! Enjoy the review!]

Right now, I am being one of those people I loathe. I’m at the back of a movie theater at a preview screening and I’m typing on my iPod Touch writing a review. I’m writing a review because the movie I am watching is so incredibly bad that my mind is wandering and I’m losing track of all of the things I want to say about how bad the movie is. So, rather than be one of the many (there have already been twenty that I’ve counted) people who walk out, I figured I’d just take some notes. That turned into writing the actual review.

The movie I am stuck at right now is Hot Tub Time Machine. I actually got a bit excited for Hot Tub Time Machine after seeing the trailers and thinking that this might be this year’s The Hangover. It is not. While that film took the tired road trip genre and male-bonding film and turned it on its ear with the story of three guys actually trying to take responsibility for a night of drunken revelry, Hot Tub Time Machine is just the opposite. The initially amusing premise, with four guys from 2010 taking a trip back to 1986 via a hot tub, quickly degenerates into a long string of swearing, body function jokes and the glorification of drunken stupidity. My usual complaint about homophobia in movies is accented by the fact that some of the first jokes in the movie are anti-gay jokes.

Adam, Lou, and Nick take their young friend, Jacob, on a ski weekend to Kodiak Valley, a ski resort where Adam promises Jacob there is a lot of drinking and women to go around. But, after an evening of boring games and an inability to pick up hookers (in no small part because of Nick’s cold feet over being married), they discover they have a hot tub. After a lot of drinking and hanging out there, they awaken the next morning to discover they look different in the mirrors and everyone around them appears to be doing a whole “retro” weekend thing. But Jacob quickly surmises that they have gone back in time and that they are stuck there until they can get back.

Fearing that they shouldn’t mess up the timeline, the guys set to doing what they did while at the resort in 1986 while Jacob tries to figure out how to get them back to their own time. For Adam, this means breaking up with April, though he does not know why he broke up with her in the first place. For Nick, it means having sex with someone who isn't his wife and getting up on stage to perform a gig that might have been his peak and for Lou it means doing a lot of drugs and drinking and getting beaten up in a fight because his friends did not back him up. But when April leaves Adam during the weekend, it seems their plan to stop influencing events is falling apart and all of the men (and a squirrel) begin messing with the timeline.

The idea of high-minded time travel humor and explaining how and what has happened quickly gives way to a long series of jokes about having sex, doing drugs, and long streams of profanities. The cursing isn’t even funny after the first few jokes and in the 1986 sequences, the swearing gets over-the-top at some points, most notably as the men react to being back in time. The movie is plagued by appealing to the lowest common denominator in that it doesn’t even try to be clever. Jacob’s mother, Kelly, is in 1986 at the resort and he’s surprised to learn that she is essentially a skank in that time period before becoming the prude he knew.

What Hot Tub Time Machine truly lacks is character and this is evident most with Nick. Nick is married and, admittedly, his wife rules his life in the future. As this movie lurches toward a conclusion, I’m figuring that he’ll use the experience to tell her off back in the future when they make it back, but it doesn’t matter. In 1986, it takes minimal coercion to get him to be unfaithful to his wife and it makes it hard to care what might happen to him, though there is absolutely no sense of menace or consequence in the film.

None of the characters are particularly empathetic and Chevy Chase’s cameos as the repairman is stiflingly unfunny, leaving those who might hope his career would rebound with this shaking their heads. But what strikes me the most as this goes on (it’s a short film and it’s winding up now) is that it is entirely familiar. To wit, Craig Robinson, who plays Nick, is essentially playing the character he played in Zack And Miri Make A Porno. This does not make his performance, which has had limited laughs after over an hour of the movie, great acting or even reasonable comedy. Instead, it means he was well cast and the problem for me is I haven’t laughed at his lines because he is delivering them with the same sense of person that I’ve seen from him time and again. Those who like Robinson’s works are going to feel cheated; this might as well be an extension of Zack And Miri Make A Porno for him or even a particularly foul episode of The Office as far as his acting is concerned.

On a similar note, I had only seen Clark Duke in Sex Drive and after more than a year since I saw that movie, he hasn’t shown me anything I haven’t seen from him before either. Even Rob Corddry, whose work on Family Guy and The Winner was funny and clever, is falling flat as Lou. Only John Cusak managed to get a smile from me and that’s because his usual good-guy character actually seemed very un-Cusak like when he went on a profanity-ridden rant.

How did so many people with talent get suckered into Hot Tub Time Machine? I’m not sure. Perhaps director Steve Pink had compromising pictures of them. Perhaps writers Josh Heald, Sean Anders and John Morris were related to the people involved. That’s the only explanation I’ve got. As it is, Steve Pink isn’t using any of the actors in remotely interesting ways and quite simply, the movie isn’t funny. As well, the soundtrack is particularly intrusive as the blaring '80s music seems to be one of the few ways – outside characters saying it and walking by Winterfest '86 signs around the resort – that the director thinks to remind the viewers of the time change.

This is “guy humor” at the very worst: a string of drunken, promiscuous episodes that are punctuated with swearing going nowhere. I can think of no reason to see this one and I’m actually astonished I’ve almost sat through the entire thing and that I watched it a second time!

For other comedies, please check out my reviews of:
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
The Tooth Fairy
Easy A


For other film reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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