Hot Tub Time Machine [Blu-Ray]
Director : Steve Pink
Screenplay : Josh Heald and Sean Anders & John Morris (story by Josh Heald)
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2010
Stars : John Cusack (Adam), Clark Duke (Jacob), Craig Robinson (Nick), Rob Corddry (Lou), Sebastian Stan (Blaine), Lyndsy Fonseca (Jennie), Crispin Glover (Phil), Chevy Chase (Repair Man), Charlie McDermott (Chaz), Lizzy Caplan (April), Collette Wolfe (Kelly), Aliu Oyofo (Nick at 17), Jake Rose (Adam at 17), Brook Bennett (Lou at 17), Crystal Lowe (Zoe), Jessica Paré (Tara), Kellee Stewart (Courtney)
You had me at the title. I mean, really--how can anyone not be at least partially disarmed by a movie that announces its goofy title Hot Tub Time Machine with cheesy ’80s graphics scored to glam metal one-hit-wonder Autograph’s 1984 fist-pumper “Turn Up the Radio”?
Well, probably quite a few people, I suppose, but anyone (like yours truly) who spent any number of his or her formative years in the Reagan era and still harbors some sense of arrested development will find much to appreciate in Steve Pink’s cheerfully vulgar, nonsensical time-travel comedy, which finds a trio of miserable fortysomethings (and one modern college-age kid) inexplicably jetted back in time to 1986, when neon colors were all the rage, Poison was a rising band, Michael Jackson was black, and, if the movie is to be believed, everyone was snorting coke, jamming out, and hooking up (the movie conveniently ignores the fact that the AIDS crisis was in full bloom by mid-decade).
A kind of ideological inverse of the 1985 blockbuster Back to the Future, which humorously cast Michael J. Fox’s cynical modern teenager back in time to the more repressed Eisenhower era, Hot Tub Time Machine suggests that our current historical period is a drag compared to the nonstop party that raged 25 years earlier. The economic recession is never explicitly mentioned, but its dark shadow hangs over the story prior to our characters entering the swirling, calendar-warping waters of the titular Jacuzzi.
John Cusack’s Adam comes home to find his ex-wife has emptied the house of most of their belongings per their contentious divorce decree, which leaves him with little more than a bottle of beer, an analog tube TV (the horror!), and his nephew Jacob (Clark Duke), a likeably chubby geek who spends most of his time in the basement wired to all things electronic (particularly Second Life, where he spends his time as a tattooed convict). Meanwhile, Craig Robinson’s Nick has given up his dreams of music stardom to settle for comfortable marriage, a hyphenated last name, and a job at a pet salon. The worst of the bunch, though, is Rob Corddry’s hilariously caustic Lou, a raging alcoholic and all-around misanthrope whose drunken antics are confused as a suicide attempt, thus inspiring his longtime friends to have a reunion at the rockin’ ski resort they used to frequent as randy teenagers. Of course, much has changed in the ensuing quarter-century, and what was once a booming party hub is now a dilapidated mess (not to get too deep here in a movie that doesn’t deserve it, but it’s hard not to see the resort as a physical reflection of the heroes’ despondent sense of lost time).
It is here that Adam, Nick, Lou, and Jacob encounter the time-altering hot tub, and once back in 1986 they must deal with the fact that any alterations they make in their past may have terrible consequences for the future (especially for Jacob, who fears that he may never be born). Anyone who has ever watched a time-travel movie is well aware of the elaborate contortions of logic and physics necessary to make sensible the warping of the space-time continuum for entertainment purposes, and despite such efforts most of them ultimately make little or no sense (or, if they do, the effort is too much to bear). The screenwriters, who include newcomer Josh Heald and the team of Sean Anders and John Morris (who also penned She’s Out of My League), basically throw all those concerns out the window, opting instead for a grab-bag approach that suits whatever wacky situation into which they wish to throw their characters. In other words, none of it makes sense and there is no effort to make it make sense. Instead, the film relies on our goodwill and sense of humor, not to mention the understandable assumption that anyone going to a movie titled Hot Tub Time Machine probably doesn’t care much about scientific veracity (or simple logic, for that matter).
If you can throw such concerns to the wind, Hot Tub Time Machine is good, crass fun. The film is, not surprisingly, chock full of references to ’80s teen movies: naming the story’s primary nemesis Blaine (“Blaine? Blaine? That’s not a name! It’s a major appliance!” we can almost hear Pretty in Pink’s Ducky exclaiming in the background), the positioning of Adam and his love interest on a tabletop for their first kiss ala Sixteen Candles, Back to the Future’s Crispin Glover as a bellhop whose arm is in constant danger of being torn off (don’t ask), and Chevy Chase as a mysterious hot tub repairman who pops in from time to time to make seemingly important but ultimately ambiguous statements that go nowhere. (Seeing Cusack and Glover in the film makes you wonder what it might have been like had it been cast entirely by veterans of ’80s teen cinema: One can only imagine the potential joys of seeing Anthony Michael Hall, Corey Feldman, Molly Ringwald, et al. returning to the era that made them fleeting stars.)
Unfortunately, the film never quite makes good on its absurd premise, and at some point you wish that the filmmakers had found more clever ways to integrate the disparities between then and now into the plot (jokes about the lack of Internet and texting wear themselves out pretty quickly). The actors throw themselves into the mix with great aplomb, and the movie actually benefits from the fact that they don’t shy away from projecting the miseries of their misspent middle-age lives onto the story. It doesn’t make it emotionally compelling, by any means, but it gives the comedy an additional edge, particularly in the case of Corddry, who manages to make Lou’s bitterness and narcissism extremely funny (he’s like an unleashed id, just spouting any crude thought that comes to mind) and strangely touching; you want to see this sad sack make something of himself. Otherwise, the movie goes mostly for easy jokes, which involve booze, bimbos, and at least two scenes too many of people vomiting, but any failings its may have are ultimately redeemed by that shameless title.
|Hot Tub Time Machine Blu-Ray + Digital Copy|
|The Blu-Ray of Hot Tub Time Machine contains both the original theatrical version and an unrated version of the film.|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||June 29, 2010|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|The 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer of Hot Tub Time Machine looks about as good as you could hope for. The image is sharp and well detailed and lacking in any digital artifacting. The darker scenes (much of the film takes place at night) maintain good shadow detail and relatively strong black levels, while the daytime scenes on the ski slopes give us blinding whites. The transfer also really make all those ’80s neon colors pop without any bleeding. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround soundtrack packs plenty of punch, especially with the film’s unapologetic good-times Reagan-era soundtrack, which kicks off in high gear right at the beginning with the thumping bass line of “Turn Up the Radio.”|
|The supplements on the Blu-Ray are pretty thin, and if you liked the movie, you have to mourn the lost opportunity of an audio commentary to reunite the cast, or at least John Cusack and director Steve Pink, who are old friends. Instead, all we have are the original theatrical trailer, 12 minutes of deleted scenes (about two minutes of which are cut back into the unrated version of the film), and four “theatrical featurettes” that run less than two minutes each and are more about advertising the film than revealing anything about its production.|
Copyright ©2010 James Kendrick
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