Blu-ray Review: Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

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In an interview with Entertainment Weekly (which can now officially be dubbed Twilight Weekly), John Cusack stated that he agreed to do the movie based purely on the title alone along with the stipulation that his friend, the High Fidelity, Grosse Pointe Blank collaborator Steve Pink could also be apart of the Hot Tub Time Machine.

After seeing the movie, I'm not sure which talented individual should be more irritated – Pink for being called in as a studio favor to do his buddy a favor or Cusack for caring so little about the direction his career has been heading since Must Love Dogs that he made the dumb choice to say yes to money and a giggle worthy title without taking two hours to read the script.

Essentially it's The Hangover filtered through Back to the Future with only the hyper masculine, aggressively outrageous antics of Rob Corddry and a choice ongoing bit with Crispin Glover to provide us with enough intermittent laughter to make it through this obnoxiously vile, arrogantly soulless, and downright ugly trip to the decade that endeared Cusack to the hearts of millions.

Hot Tub Time Machine is not only as bad as you'd assume based on the painfully unfunny trailers (both green and red band) that aired nonstop before its release but it's also one of the worst films of 2010 that marks a new low-point for what passes as American cinematic comedy.

Lazy, pointless and thoroughly unpleasant, the film introduces us to four men whose lives are going nowhere fast. Proving that we can't go even a minute without a reference to a bodily humor gag, when we first encounter Craig Robinson's Nick at work he's fishing car keys out of a dog's rectum while lamenting his failed music career that he never attempted to launch.

And although he doesn't have to wash his hands quite as vigorously at the end of the day, John Cusack's Adam is going through a rough time as well, returning home to find his girlfriend has moved out, left him an expletive filled goodbye note, stolen his TV and abandoned him to take care of his aimless, introverted, computer nerd nephew Jacob alone.

Yet the guys are at least in much better shape than they ultimately find Corddry's Lou who winds up in the hospital after rocking out a little too long to a song on the radio with the motor running in his garage. Although he vehemently denies he'd tried to gas himself to death with carbon monoxide so that legally the hospital can't hold him, the doctor on duty advises Nick and Adam to look after the friend they refer to as “an asshole” but one who's their asshole.

Bringing Jacob along despite the fact that he and Lou loathe each other, Nick and Adam plan a getaway to the same Kodiak Valley ski lodge they remember getting alternately wasted and laid in nonstop during their youth.

Unfortunately for the characters, the lodge – much like the men – has seen better days as the community initially resembles a ghost town and there's nothing promising about the depressing, dimly lit lodge to cheer them even if they're staying in their old room aptly numbered 420 that foreshadows the endless drug taking that follows.

However, just when they're ready to give up, too much alcohol and a mystical hot tub outside the room suddenly transports the quartet back to 1986 overnight. And shortly thereafter, their formerly rude bellhop (Crispin Glover) arrives not only with all of their old Hunter S. Thompson worthy luggage of enough stuff to overdose a stable of horses but also with a much cheerier disposition, thanks largely to the fact that he has both arms intact.

Unsure if they should warn him that he'll lose one of his arms in the future, one of the film's only successful macabre yet darkly comedic running gags throughout the film occurs whenever we assume that one of Glover's arms is about to be lopped off.

Although the movie plays fast and loose with logic since Jacob wouldn't technically have been alive that particular weekend, director Steve Pink and screenwriters Josh Heald, Sean Anders and John Morris have a blast trying to create an uber-crass hybrid of Back to the Future as Jacob runs into his trampy mother and discerns she conceives him that weekend (one guess who the father will be) along with the same “party” spirit we saw in a whole host of teen comedies that era.

Yet the difference is, whether the parties took place in old Cusack classics like Sixteen Candles or Say Anything..., there was always something else going on that was crucial to the plot as we came to know, understand and empathize with the characters over the course of the movie's running time. And tragically, Hot Tub is devoid of anything resembling human emotion, plot or character development as we don't really care if the individuals onscreen manage to return to the future or just pass out.

The tone is joyless, protracted and extremely forced in its presentation of simply trying to hit an all-time low for scatological humor by aiming for the most unsophisticated of audiences who find Judd Apatow and the Farrelly brothers movies too highbrow. Hot Tub Time Machine is as annoying as that one attendee who comes to the party uninvited and already drunk, vomits on the antique rug and then refuses to leave long after it's over because he has no place to go and nobody who wants anything to do with him.

Instead of relishing in the prospect of a gleefully experimental comedy that invited the same enjoyably retro mood that The Wedding Singer did, Hot Tub Time Machine forgot what made the '80s both so ridiculous as well as so charming in some unforgettable comedies that still play on a daily basis on networks around the globe, making you realize what a tremendous opportunity was wasted in not using those films as fodder.

And despite the fact that given the release from Fox/MGM, Hot Tub transfers well, visually it isn't worth the extra money for high definition Blu-ray even though the combo pack provides owners with a digital copy.

Instead of giving us four male characters we actually give a damn about (even one out of four would have been refreshing), Hot Tub Time Machine specializes in showing us how ugly in every sense of the word comedy can be when writers aren't up to the task of trying to invest any thought or talent into gags that are more memorable for their inventiveness rather than the fact that they've made us physically ill.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.