Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine



  • Released Internationally on 26/03/10
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 02/06/10


Preview (first published 29/05/10 in VIDA Magazine)

In a nutshell

Time travel is fun, I’ve been told. And the 80s were fun, if I remember well. So as part of the ongoing fascination with that most unstylish of decades, we finally get to travel back to 1986.

Why we’re hyped?

Probably the best time-travel film to date was based in the 80s, with Marty McFly leaving 1985 to travel back and forth in Back to the Future. This time, four male buddies with women troubles find themselves trapped in 1986 after a very drunken night involving a hot tub. They wake up when hair was bigger, highlighter jumpsuits weren’t only worn by inmates, and Michael Jackson (rest his soul), was still black. With such a goldmine of kitsch references and retro jokes, this promises to be one of the funniest movies this summer. It’s like The Hangover, but on the set of a Bonnie Tyler video.

Who’s in it?

Leading the pack back in time is the ever likeable John Cusack, who continues to alternate between quirky but excellent smaller films like Being John Malkovich and big-budget epics like Con Air or 2012. He is also one of the producers of the film, and should know something about the 80s since that when he had his first starring roles. Rising comedy regular Craig Robinson (Pineapple Express, Zack and Miri Make A Porno and the upcoming Shrek Forever After) is one of his bosom buddies, who isn’t too keen on bumping into his 1986 self, complete with high-rise hairdo. Clark Duke (Kick-Ass) and Rob Corddry (The Heartbreak Kid) round of the futuristic foursome. The film is directed by Steve Pink, who once adapted the screenplay for another Cusack gem – High Fidelity. So get out your leg warmers and zip up your shell suits, and get in the tub.



Review (02/06/10)

Present imperfect

Adam (Cusack) returns home from work to find that his long-term girlfriend has finally left, taking most of his possessions with her. In his basement, his pudgy nephew Jacob (Duke) lives indoors and his only social interactions are online, via his avatar on 'Second Life' (which makes one worry about how many such situations really exist). Across town, failed musician Nick (Robinson), does various non-appetising jobs at a dog-care centre, and definitely doesn't wear the trousers in his marriage. When their previously close friend Lou (Corddry) is hospitalised after a suspected suicide attempt, their lives comes swiftly into focus and they decide to try a weekend of bonding in a ski resort they used to love when they were younger. Nostalgia plays tricks, however, and they arrive to find a run-down resort that is a mere shadow of their glorious memories. When in doubt, drink.

Details, details

Time travel films require a certain amount of suspension of belief, for what I hope are obvious reasons. But the concept is so entertaining, and such a goldmine for cinematic moments that we're usually more than willing to nod along with talk of 'flux capacitors' and the 'space time continuum'. So usually the scantiest of details are enough to get the plot going. In this case, the unlikely mode of transport is an outdoor jacuzzi, which during the wild night of partying in which lots of sticky alcohol is spilt over the control panel, sends the four naked occupants swirling back to the mid-80s. The scene is a fast-paced, slightly trippy and very dizzying montage, which moves the plot swiftly forward to where we want to be. Getting back proves slightly more complex, however, and the numerous scenes where the four travellers and a mysterious, angelic handyman (Chevy Chase) try to fix the tub and get home end up being rather tedious and overdone.

Sex, drugs and glam-rock 'n’ roll

It may not be the swinging 60s or hedonistic 70s, but these unsuccessful males travel back to what they consider to be the zenith of their social lives - a wild winter week they spent in the resort, which was eventful and memorable on various levels. Brought up watching numerous time travel films themselves, they decide they should relive the week exactly as they remember it, so as to hopefully avoid a ‘butterfly effect’ and end up changing history forever. So, with a sense of duty, they set out into the frosty night to get punched by bullies, stabbed in the eyebrow by angry ex-girlfriends and booed off stage at a concert. Until, that is, they start realising that there’s fun to be had. Jacob, the unlikely time traveller who wasn’t even born at the time, is the most eager to get back home, especially after meeting the rather slutty 80s version of his dear mother.

Johnny B. Goode

The references to Back to the Future are frequent and not too subtle, from the hot tub’s digital display to the scene where the crowd is awed by a rendition of a ‘song from the future’. Certain scenes have the same overall feel of that time-travel classic too, as the characters try to tip-toe through the night’s events without disturbing the course of history, and failing miserably. The film also contains numerous elements that struck a chord in last year’s The Hangover, from the buddy aspect of the main characters to the shameless lack of decency or correctness as the events unfold. Most of the sleaze and crudeness is embodied in the character of Lou, with his three companions trying to hold him back, which sets up an interesting finale to the timeline troubles.

In the end

It’s crude, it’s rather silly, and it’s often much less coherent than similar films it tries to emulate. But there are frequent moments of hilarity, and a few inspired scenes that the main characters handle with boyish charm. You’ll probably need to be in the mood for this one, but if you are, you’re in for a fun ride.





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