Friday, March 26, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE (Steve Pink, 2010)

One drunken night in a ski lodge's whirlpool magically transports four guys to 1986 in HOT TUB TIME MACHINE. Rob Corddry's Lou is suspected of trying to kill himself while blasting Motley Crue and revving his car while parked in his garage. His old friends Adam (John Cusack) and Nick (Craig Robinson) are also experiencing some rough patches in life and decide that a trip to one of the places from their glory days will be good for all of them. Tagging along, much to Lou's chagrin, is Adam's nephew Jacob (Clark Duke).

When they roll into town, the guys find that most of it is boarded up. The resort and its employees are in shambles. The hot tub is on the fritz too, and when it does begin working properly, it sends them back twenty years in time.

Nostalgia exerts a powerful pull, so as the oldest Generation Xers hit middle age and the youngest approach 30, it's no surprise that '80s revivalism is being shuffled out for this pop culture-minded age group. From its silly title and concept to the cheap sets and loud fashions, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE looks and plays like something studios churned out during that decade.

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE'S unrefined charms, nonsensical plotting, scruffy filmmaking, and appropriate casting produce a decent simulation of '80s comedies. Essentially it's the cinematic equivalent of Pepsi Throwback. Spotting the references to Cusack and co-star Crispin Glover's old movies supplies an amusing diversion, and the film mines the differences between then and now for occasional laughs.

The unfiltered hostility in Corddry's performance matches well with Robinson's deadpan style as well as bringing energy to a film that feels kind of tired. Through its slack editing and direction, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE gives the impression of a halfhearted effort, as if the film's name and story were wacky enough that any old gag would do. For as uproarious as the jokes are intended to be, they often land much more softly.

It's not that the film isn't funny or pleasantly stupid. At issue is that it seems like HOT TUB TIME MACHINE'S humor is overly reliant on fond memories of its predecessors rather than generating much that's witty in and of itself. The sloppiness is a fitting tribute to the movies HOT TUB TIME MACHINE resembles, but that's not entirely a positive quality.

Grade: C+

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