After a week of thought, digestion, and calculated consideration, I still hated Hot Tub Time Machine. As the title might suggest to you, this isn’t a movie that deserves any of the aforementioned effort on your part to enjoy it- or hate it, for that matter. The quality of premise, plot and depth of character are all evident based on the haphazard smooshing of compound syllables found in the title. But as a comedy guy (meaning a fan, but also a writer and performer of comedy) I sought a sort of retarded genius in the simplicity of the movie’s pitch, based on the pre-knowledge that often the most skilled of comedians can polish a turd to the point where it shines like a glistening turd sandwich, festering gloriously in the sun. The writers of Hot Tub Time Machine must have run out of Turd Polish (®®©™) or never had much comedic wit to begin with, because their lack of ability to push the boundaries of time-travel comedy or even basic fart jokes shows a decided unwillingness to elevate their screenplay above the level of a couple of agency twats who just read Save the Cat for the first time while they were writing it.
The entire cast of Hot Tub Time Machine is talented, and Rob Corddry especially proves his ability to captivate a big-screen audience in a non-Harold and Kumar setting. But being the best part of a piece of shit is hardly an accomplishment. It’s almost as if Corddry is the one student over-compensating in a decomposing act of high school theater, knowing that the walls are collapsing around him, but still taking the time to comfort the audience as they’re smothered Medea-style. Craig Robinson continues to be a source of laughter, albeit once again relegated to the “OUR BLACK FRIEND” role that almost completely undermines his character’s dialog from minute one of its terrible writing. John Cusack survives by wandering around from sequence to sequence, occasionally foraging for scenery while the audience’s back is turned (possibly scratching their own asses in cling-on based discomfort). Clark Duke is exceptional as the person whose success I am most likely to question for the next decade and a half (until his untimely death- fingers crossed). Chevy Chase is more misused than that old guy on Community, caged and prodded while being forced to spout odd cryptic dialog in another of the movie’s “hilarious running gags.” Crispin Glover survives mostly un(h)armed, and combined with his relative success here may be this summer’s most bankable star thanks to his brave performance as some tall guy in Alice in Wonderland.
If you are female, I want to apologize on behalf of men everywhere for the vapid, pointless and beyond shallow portrayal of your gender in this movie. It’s gotten to the point in male comedies where even talented female comedians are getting shoehorned into variations on the theme “slut”. When the female romantic lead of your movie is less memorable than the main character’s trashed, whore-ish sister, something is very wrong. The sexism wouldn’t bother me so much if I could imagine that the screenwriters were being tongue-in-cheek, but the chauvinism is such a given that no one- not even Clark Duke’s petulant fun-sponge- complains about it or gives it second notice. There’s a great opportunity for Duke’s character to try to play Mr. Fix-It with his mom’s hedonistic youth, trying to subtly or not-so-subtly lead her on a path of moral virtue rather than her drug-abusing self-destructive ways, but it- like all opportunities for time travel fun in this half-baked premise- never rears its head, and instead we’re left with four guys trying to land tail at a 1980’s ski resort, a concept that reminds me of this much funnier movie called Better Off Dead, starring some actor whose career recently tanked.
To add insult to injury the basic tenets of the time travel device are as hackneyed as possible, resulting in a last-minute race to secure the magic Russian energy drink that provided the McGuffin for their space-time tango. Rather than ever giving our protagonists (does that word make sense here?) an opportunity to hop back and forth through time and mess with the universe in fun and inventive ways, we’re stuck in the same boring 1980s setting for a majority of the movie, and it seems like the screenwriters were either too fetal or riddled with Down Syndrome to competently remember what the 1980s were like outside of Poison and leg-warmers. There’s nothing wrong with stealing the principals of Back to the Future– one of the greatest movies of all time and the literal bible when it comes to movie time-travel- but you could at least try to get the basic elements right. When our four heroes (still seems weird) travel back in time they inhabit the bodies of their past selves, so there’s never a chance that they’ll run into an old version of themselves and collapse the universe or anything. This never seems to explain Clark Duke’s character’s physical existence within the premise, since it’s clear that he wasn’t even conceived yet in the 1980s. He’s just hanging out for most of the movie in his own skin, which really begs the question of what happens to the dudes’ former past selves that existed in the 1980s before they came back to visit. When they return to the future at the movie’s conclusion, they inhabit their own bodies again and still have no chance of running into a parallel timeline’s version of themselves, but the whole thing creates this logical gap in the narrative momentum, especially since the main plot of this movie surrounds our characters boringly attempting to recreate all the crazy things that happened to them one crazy weekend in crazily dull detail. By traveling back in time to inherit the bodies of their younger selves, they’ve already damaged the past irreparably, so the fact that Chevy Chase’s pseudo-time-guru repairman urges them to replicate everything perfectly as they remember it doesn’t really matter or make sense. Wouldn’t it have been a more fun movie from the beginning if the four characters agreed that their lives in the present sucked, and since they have nothing to lose, why not purposefully change the future for their own benefit? Of course this idea eventually takes hold in Corddry by the film’s third act, but by then the choice is so belated and pointedly obvious that it barely matters when the movie finally stumbles to the conclusion.
It’s not that Hot Tub Time Machine is simply bad- and believe me, it’s bad- it’s that the script is an example of the sheer laziness capable of major Hollywood players and executives on a daily basis, the same sort of sliding a half-finished project across the teacher’s desk that you might expect from grade-schoolers, but here the stakes are a lot higher considering that $40+ million dollars are being flung around the screen like feces at the ape cages. (And if you’re angry that I’m being so crass in my review, you’re one or two jizz jokes short of being in the target demographic for this picture.) It’s almost a surprise that no one thought to slap post-production 3D on this bad boy just to drive up the ticket sales and help justify the budget. If anyone can watch this ugly-looking stinker and tell me where that $40 mil went, I’d love to know. Hot Tub Time Machine is a decidedly freshman attempt at filmmaking that makes the term ‘sophomoric’ a far-away and unachievable ideal. Perhaps its most grievous offense is the fact that it’s just not that funny, and while that opinion is purely subjective, I would argue there’s more “so dumb it’s hilarious” content in Weekend at Bernies 2 than here, where playing it safe between sprays of gross liquid makes Mind of Mencia look like an art form. Don’t see Hot Tub Time Machine, even if you’re in the target demographic. I promise I’ve seen people fart on more interesting snare drums than this movie. And by next year, there’ll be some other forgettable comedic crapfest to entertain you. Might as well stay in for the night, crack a few beers and watch Hangover on DVD, or better yet, something funnier.