Jacuzzi does it
IHot Tub Time Machine, Stadium 14, 1.5 chiles
comedy, rated R, Regal As someone who suffers from a bad back as well as from crippling regrets over decisions I made in my early 20s, I could really use a good soak in a hot tub time machine — preferably with Ben Franklin, Greta Garbo, and Oscar Wilde. Like Agent Mulder on The X-Files, I want to believe — in a hot tub time machine. It’s plausible enough, I reckon. The last time I was at Ten Thousand Waves, I could have sworn I saw people who just arrived there from the 1960s.
So I entered Hot Tub Time Machine with a series of questions. How does it work? Is it a chemical reaction in the water? Does the amount of time you travel relate to the temperature? Plastic or acrylic shell? Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t delve into the details. All the filmmakers offer by way of explanation is that a power drink from Russia spills on the tub’s control panel and zap! We’re back to the past. How dare they skimp on the hard science?
Instead, they tell the story of four losers who head off to a favorite ski resort of their youth to briefly climb out of their current ruts. The resort turns out to be a symbol for their lives: it’s empty,
continued from Page 44 run-down, and has seen much better days. The first 20 minutes present us with a cocktail of gross-out humor that alternately involves dog poop, urine, and projectile vomit, and mixes in a serious suicide attempt.
Nonetheless, I was engaged most of the time. Director Steve Pink and the three credited screenwriters present a different take on the usual time-travel high jinks. The four men find themselves occupying the bodies of their younger selves during one wild weekend in the mid-1980s. Even though they are still portrayed by the older actors (don’t ask), and one of the four actors was born in the mid-80s (don’t ask), they now have a chance to relive an important weekend from their youth. Will they make the same choices?
John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, and Rob Corddry play the lead quartet. Cusack goes a long way toward saving the movie, as he’s an actor we like to follow. Robinson never quite summons the charm he easily exudes in TV’s The Office and movies like Knocked Up and Pineapple
Express. Duke is an effective wiseacre who has little to do in this film. And Corddry, well, maybe he was miscast and maybe the part was poorly written, but I’ve rarely seen an actor work so hard for so few laughs.
Production designer Bob Ziembicki does an admirable job of creating an atmosphere that isn’t quite of the 1980s but rather of bad 1980s comedies like and
(which, incidentally, starred Cusack). I’m guessing his crew was working with a very limited budget, and it crafted a look that isn’t quite authentic but somehow works within its context.
The film’s supporting cast is shored up by women who look good in hairspray and hot-pink spandex but don’t have many lines. Crispin Glover plays a bizarre one-armed bellhop who is the center of some tasteless humor. Chevy Chase, who may be one of the few people outside of the Republican Party who really wishes it still were the 1980s, plays a mystical handyman who helps repair the hot tub and get everybody home.
But do they go? And do they learn from the experience and change their ways? Can you really change your ways? This movie never quite finds the message it wants to convey — right down to the ending that tells us that friendship is what brings happiness while showing us that money is what actually does the trick. I’d worry about spoiling it for you, but I’m still hoping someone spoils it for me. What was the point of this?
The point, silly, is to make a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine. And I get it. I could never be a studio executive, because I’d greenlight every single script that came in with a title like Snakes on a Plane or Hot Tub
Time Machine. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good title. Aren’t there enough titles like Green Zone and
Edge of Darkness out there already? Unfortunately, I wouldn’t last very long as an executive, because these movies with outstanding titles almost always seem to come with a severe case of buyer’s remorse. Ten minutes into the picture and “This is a great idea!” becomes “Why did I think this was a great idea?” And brother, there is no hot tub time machine to take you back to just before you shelled out money for those tickets. I know. I’ve looked into it.
Soak and ye shall find: Chevy Chase