DIR: Steve Pink • WRI: Josh Heald, Sean Anders, John Morris • PRO: John Cusack, Grace Loh, Matt Moore, John Morris • DOP: Jack N. Green • ED: George Folsey Jr., James Thomas • DES: Bob Ziembicki • CAST: John Cusack, Clark Duke, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry
As far as proverbs go, ‘never judge a book by its cover’, is a goodie. It’s a proverb rich with open-mindedness and a good mantra for day-to-day life. However, another goodie is ‘never say never’, and in line with this, Hot Tub Time Machine is exactly what its title suggests.
The film begins in the present and introduces us to three middle-aged friends who have grown apart and are each unhappy with their lives due to a divorce, failed music career and suicidal tendencies. They decide to return to the ski resort where they had their ’80’s heyday for some good old-fashioned male bonding and to show the nephew of Adam (John Cusack) how cool they used to be. The resort isn’t what they remember but thanks to a (spoiler alert, but not really) hot tub time machine they’re transported back to 1986 and are in for one crazy weekend!
As far as premises go for this genre, it’s quite a strong one. Hot Tub… looked promising as a successor to last year’s The Hangover and it’s distributor, MGM, would have been praying for a hit of that magnitude to help them with their current dire straits. Sadly, you can’t get money for nothing (pun always intended) and Hot Tub… is a few guitar solos short of a fully-fledged 80’s power ballad.
Hot Tub… isn’t without laughs. At its best it is brilliantly funny but these instances are too few. The film becomes burdened with explaining ‘the butterfly effect’; a central component of time travel in films. A quick visit to dictionary.com explains it as such: ‘a chaotic effect caused by something seemingly insignificant, the phenomenon whereby a small change in a complex system can have a large effect somewhere else’. Hot Tub… stubbornly feels the need to explain this repeatedly and at great lengths when they should have been concentrating on more important things within this genre, i.e. dick jokes. Don’t get me wrong, there are quite a few dick jokes; there’s just a lot more chaos theory.
Hot Tub… is simply not equal to the sum of its parts. There is a very strong cast headed by the three friends Adam, Nick (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddry) along with Adam’s nephew Jacob (Clark Duke). They all work well together and there is an excellent supporting role for Crispin Glover as the accident-prone bellboy; no stranger to time-travel himself thanks to his part in Back to the Future. The comic possibilities of a return to the ’80s is frustratingly underused in the narrative, as typified by the too-brief cameo of Chevy Chase. Hot Tub… should have paid closer attention to the extensive research on display in The Wedding Singer.
Hot Tub Time Machine is ultimately a disappointment. It is an adequate comedy but the untapped potential of the concept left me with a rebel yell; crying out for more, more, more… more, more, more.
(See biog here)
Hot Tub Time Machine is released on 7 May 2010