Monday, April 12, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) – Review

Hot Tub Time Machine is the type of film made for a specific audience, one that is looking to laugh without qualms about what they are laughing at; and for this audience, the film does its job. It is funny, full of nostalgia and referential nods and gets the most out of its cast and premise. Upon first look at the credits, the film seems to be a waste of the talent of actor/producer John Cusack and his friend director Steve Pink, after all the two worked on High Fidelity and Grosse Pointe Blank together, what are they doing making this film. But after seeing it, the film resembles The Hangover in that it takes something iconic (in The Hangover it is Vegas and the mythos that applies, while in Hot Tub Time Machine it is the 80’s and it’s teen film genre) uses the lore of this time or place (or both) to insight comedy, while telling a somewhat heartfelt story, in which the characters come to realizations about their lives, and this is where Hot Tub Time Machine succeeds. While the film is very funny and there are plenty of jokes at the expense of the actors and the 80’s (at least how we remember it now), the film really works because while the audience laughs they also are building a relationship with the characters and want to see their journeys come to a satisfying conclusion. The narrative structure for the film takes three friends on hard times, asks them to reevaluate their lives and what they mean to each other and finally to make changes and reconnect to find deeper meaning in themselves, each other and their lives. This does not sound much like a comedy, but it works well as the foundation for the film, which then piles on tones of jokes on top. The cast for such a film is essential as well, as they must be able to both play to the drama of their arch while being able to pull off the comedy. Cusack, Clark Duke, Craig Robinson, and Rob Corddry make up a great team, each playing to their strengths: Cusack has sort of a tortured coolness, Duke has an ambivalent cynicism, Robinson is sort of lovable, and Corddry is a wild man, anything can happen type – their powers combine to form a well functioning comedic group, enabling for many sorts of jokes to work (and a film like this needs that, similar again to The Hangover). The film also features a number of fun supporting roles including: Crispin Glover (sort of playing a caricature of George McFly), Chevy Chase, Collette Wolfe, Lyndsy Fonseca, and Lizzy Caplan (whose character oddly felt out of place in the 80s, almost postmodern, like she was from the present too, but living in the 80’s). Bob Ziembicki’s production design fits the film well, as it is both realistic for the period but also full of nostalgic joking fun. Overall the Hot Tub Time Machine works to the strengths of is cast, features all types of jokes, and lots of 80’s fun, but it is the underlying narrative that sets it apart from most comedies of its type. 7/10

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