Hot Tub Time
Machine - John Cusack, Rob Corddry - Movie Review
CORRECTING THE HANGOVER'S HANG-UPS
published March 28,
Hot Tub Time
now playing nationwide
So quick! Back to the Future meets The Hangover.
You pretty much have to get that logline
out of the way before discussing Hot Tub Time Machine, a film that deserves an Oscar for its
Famously, Howard Hawks designed Rio Bravo as a response to High Noon, a film he couldn’t
stand. You get the feeling that director Steve Pink and writers-by-committee Josh Heald, Sean Anders and John Morris are up to the same
thing, whether intentionally or accidentally. Didn’t I call The Hangover the Death of the American Comedy?* Raunchily smart, appealingly dumb, and
willing to take it the whole nine outrageous yards, Hot Tub Time Machine might be at least a
little bit of a rebirth.
Consider the similarities:
-- Four friends take a bonding trip. The four friends are the above-it all asshole (John Cusack here),
the henpecked emasculee (Craig Robinson), the antisocial nut (Rob Corddry), annnnnnnnnd … and
... and ... somebody else (Clark Duke as the geeky teenage nephew).
-- Each film has a last-hurrah trip that turns into a wild and crazy weekend. In The Hangover, it’s a Vegas Bachelor Party trip that goes to Hell when they lose the groom-to-be after a
forgotten night of hard partying. In Hot Tub Time Machine, a visit to a California ski resort
goes haywire when a drunken night of hot tub partying transports them back to spandex-filled 1986 to relive events.
With that in mind, Hot Tub Time Machine does exactly what it should do – it takes all of The Hangover’s problems and corrects them.
-- By having the men drugged or sleeping through the
experience, The Hangover becomes a film of mild reaction shots rather than outrageous events.
It’s a lot more fun to actually watch the zaniness in Hot Tub Time Machine than to have
people tell you about it afterward.
-- The Hangover thinks it’s wild, but never actually gets there.
Hot Tub Time Machine gets crazier and crazier and weirder and weirder until everyone is winking
and nodding at its silly premise because it’s too much fun not to.
-- The Hangover takes its running gag – the lost baby – and
surrenders it. Oh, it’s your baby? Here’s your baby back. The running gag in Hot Tub Time
Machine is how the bellhop loses his arm, which it keeps teasing, maybe one or two times too many, but at least it doesn’t give it up
without a punchline.
-- While not exactly
overwhelming emotionally, it does bite down just a bit on the nostalgia, helped by the presence of Cusack returning to the 1980s when he
was a big teenage star.
-- While it made me
smile a lot, The Hangover made me laugh less than 10 times, and three of them were during Ed
Helms's piano song. The quick-witted raunchiness of Hot Tub Time Machine basically jumps on you
on the floor and tickles you to death laughing, even when you think you shouldn’t.
The result is that
Hot Tub Time Machine becomes the film that I kept reading that The Hangover was. And now that I’ve managed to avoid
calling it "a whirlpool of laughs" let me suggest that it actually is worth a view.
*[editor's note: actually, no, he did not call The Hangover the "Death of the American Comedy" –at least not in
his Stage and Cinema review – but he did correctly assess that The Hangover, to use critical
journalism's rarefied lexicon, pretty much sucked]