29 March 2010
First Impressions: Hot Tub Time Machine
Let me start this entry firstly with a story of how I first saw this film: I went to a local theater with the full intention of watching Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) by myself. I was alone because no one I knew thought watching Hot Tub Time Machine on a Sunday afternoon was a good idea. So I'm pretty ashamed yet simultaneously proud to go see this affront to God by myself.
Well, I screwed up and went to the wrong theater, they weren't playing HTTM. So fuck, I spent the remainder of the afternoon searching the city for a theater that was actually showing the film with no knowledge of locations or showtimes. Two hours after I set out on my journey I finally sat down in this ransacked little cineplex that was playing my new lifetime favourite film, alone, eager and willing for the thrill of a lifetime.
Hot Tub Time Machine delivers.
(PROBABLE SPOILERS abound, but who cares-) This is a good movie. It requires its audience to buy into its absurdity but once we do it is a very rewarding experience. As some of the trailers indicate, it is very quick to acknowledge its own stupidity and then move on. This is very apparent in Jacob's (Clark Duke) readily accepted "scientific explanation" (he saw something similar on Stargate) The film doesn't allow itself to be slowed down by any attempt at common sense or rationality in establishing its premise, which is necessary for this kind of movie. It's important to note that HTTM never ever tries to be anything more than the title implies it should be.
That said, it's also notable that where the film could have been a trite 100-minute 80s joke, it's really not. Stay with me here - past the initial culture shock, there's less 80s jokes than there are simply getting-older jokes and more than that is actually a good deal of character-based comedy. It doesn't quite pull off the seemless 80s transition like a film like Adventureland (2009) which uses the decade as a setting to advance the story over a long irritating joke, but if regular Family Guy writing is any indication, HTTM could have been much worse if not for the authenticity the actors bring to their characters. The real shining star here his Rob Corddry, stealing the insane nasty title from The Hangover's (2009) Zach Galifianakis. He's nuts, more unlikeable than Joe Pesci and constantly hilarious. He throws his irredeemability into every scene with gusto.
What's funny is how the film initially attempts to treat the past with dignity, the characters attempt to relive their past in identical fashion in order to preserve the future. Clearly though, these pieces of shit couldn't keep that up. Corddry completely sells out, making millions doing exactly what doomed the future and went against all of Doc Brown's whole philosophy in Back to the Future II (1989). It's awesome when you realise older films like that had inundated your personal morality to the simple possibility that most cats that travel back in time (certainly cats like Corddry) would proceed to make themselves a better future.
And really it's not all about riches and wish fulfillment. Especially for Nick (Craig Robinson) and Adam (John Cusack) it's about finding something worthwhile with their futures. They're both dudes (as well as Corddry) who once had bright futures but each sold out in some way. Robinson is completely emasculated and depressed, violently loyal to a woman he knows cheated on him. Cusack likewise never really got his Great White Buffalo, basically he's continued on from High Fidelity (2000) to never find that true girl to make him happy. Thus while they initially attempt to go about their past lives with the same way in order to preserve their history as soon as they realise both the futility of achieving this goal as well as the actual reality that the eponymous HTTM is really a second chance at living a contented life the story really takes off. It's funny how the Kodiak Valley ski lodge, where most of the film takes place, represents the "greatest times of their youth," but in actuality the time they spent there was miserable. Nostalgia and that feeling for the hope of greatness rather than actual greatness had taken over their subconscious. The finale of the film allows the characters through their friendship to reclaim some of the glory they could have had if they had been able to preserve their integrity. Powerful stuff, I'm sure.
It's also very fuckin' funny. From creative use of hand soaps to failed motivational speeches, anachronistic Black Eyed Peas songs to the revelation of Jacob's real father ("We gotta let him finish!"), there are some gut-busting moments, all of which were personally enjoyed by myself much more thoroughly in an empty theater in Rochester's swankiest Crack district.
I'll complain about one element - the inclusion of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl for Cusack - although her mania is pretty downplayed, but the role she serves is certainly identical. She's really not that spritely and Cusack isn't really as uptight as Zach Braff or anything so it's really not as irritating as it could have been. All in all, HTTM rolls with the punches unlike any film I've ever seen. It's thoroughly content with itself (not unlike its characters - eh? eh? working that metanarrative baby) - and through its numbers have been far from Hangover-level, that's about the closest film I could compare it to. It may not be as funny, but there's definitely more blow job scenes, more ass and big titties and less man-dick. So that's got to be a plus for most hetero-dudes out there. For the gay dudes, don't fret, there were no women involved in the BJ, this should still be quite the pleasing affair.
Well, tally ho my friends, definitely one of the funnest Sunday's I've had by myself since that SEARS catalog was accidentally slipped in my mailbox. Boy oh boy. Go see this movie, it's just a lot of fun.