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Fred Scolded by Hot Tub Time Machine

Published March 25, 2010 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Universal Pictures
Robin Hood Hot Tub Time Machine

Who would have thought a John Cusack ‘80s ski comedy wouldn’t work? Hot Tub Time Machine is actually a good time travel movie, but it’s barely funny at all. Since it’s supposed to be a comedy, that’s not okay. Even the $2 reference isn’t funny.

Review: Hot Tub Time Machine

I was going to give it 20 minutes to set itself up. You have to see Cusack in breakup mode, the 20-year-old computer kid, the former party boy loser and complacent happy guy. At best it’s trying too hard to give a reason for a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine. At worst it’s just clichéd and lazy.

The rules they set up are fun. They are in their own bodies, and we know everyone sees them as their teen selves because of their Benjamin Button’ed mirror reflections. So you allow middle-aged actors to behave like teens in a teen comedy, and they try to preserve the space-time continuum by re-enacting the past.

It’s a good effort making an anti-nostalgia time travel movie. They actually hate the ‘80s, so there’s a twist we don’t usually see. Their irreverent attitude towards time travel movie clichés is refreshing. It has energy and momentum as it moves through the plot. Even the idea of being filthy is, or it would be if it were funny dirty.

It tries way too hard to be raunchy for an R-rating. Just profanity isn’t itself funny. So much relies on grossout pee, poopy and vomit. Contriving homophobic sexual situations isn’t funny. (It’s funny when Jay and Silent Bob do it because they’re actually pro-gay.) Really guys, boobies are enough to make it an R-rated ‘80s comedy.

It goes overboard with the understated John Cusack brand of banter, to the point where there aren’t even punchlines. Topics just sit there in muted dialogue. It just feels like each actor is doing a completely separate type, so there’s no dynamic between them. Maybe they played estranged friends too well.

Even the good jokes from the trailer don’t play at full speed. They’re actually cut exactly the same way in the finished film, so they don’t even let scenes run their full course. It’s just a trailer joke in the middle of a normal speed movie.

This isn’t about overanalyzing a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine. It’s about a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine breaking its own rules. The whole point is to just be silly and irreverent with time travel and midlife crisis movies. For it to devolve into gay jokes and F words is a sad disappointment.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Universal Pictures

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