Friday, February 27, 2015

Review Double Feature: Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) and Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (2015)

Another double feature, for another original and sequel. I saw the original Hot Tub Time Machine again with James, Mary, and Mom a couple of nights ago, then Mary and I went and saw the sequel last night. Does the original still hold up, and does the sequel hold a candle to it?

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, drug use and pervasive language

Hot Tub Time Machine is the sort of film that, going by the title, you shouldn't expect a lot from. Yet even if you do, you'll still find that it's a hilariously raunchy comedy almost on the same level as The Hangover, and probably a better remake of Back to the Future than any actual remake of that film could hope to be. Boasting a great cast, lots of wit and sleaze, and most importantly, interesting characters that I could actually give a damn about, this will probably be an overlooked gem in about ten years, but it's still a comedy that's more than worth watching.

The film follows four friends, Adam (John Cusack), who's just getting over a bad breakup, Nick (Craig Robinson), who's working a crappy job and whose wife is cheating on him, Lou (Rob Corddry), an alcoholic lowlife on a crash course towards the Reaper, and Jacob (Clark Duke), Adam's layabout nephew who plays video games all day. After Lou winds up in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt, they all go on a trip to an old ski resort that Adam, Nick, and Lou used to party at, which has since become hopelessly run-down. There, they hop into a hot tub, one of them accidentally spills his illegal Russian energy drink with its mysterious ingredients on the controls, and... well, did you read the title of this film? The four of them get thrown back in time to 1986, with Adam, Nick, and Lou in their young bodies again. (If you're wondering why Jacob hasn't turned into a pile of sperm, he's wondering the same thing.) Initially, they're afraid that they might screw up the time stream, so they try to remember what they did on that exact day, but inevitably, the butterfly effects from even the smallest changes start adding up, and Jacob, who was conceived that night, starts fading out. Now, the rest of the gang has to save Jacob and ensure that his birth parents meet up and have sex, while also fixing some of the mistakes they made with their own lives. Unfortunately, Blaine (Sebastian Stan), an uber-patriotic '80s jock villain stereotype, discovered their futuristic cell phones, music players, and illegal Russian energy drinks after stealing their bag, and is convinced that there are a bunch of communist spies running loose.

The plot of this movie is one of those things where, if you think about it too hard, you'll inevitably run into some pretty big plot holes. The butterfly effect seems to work chiefly at the whims of the writers, especially at the end where we see how all the changes affected their lives after the fact. Likewise, the subplot of Adam falling for April (Lizzy Caplan), a Spin reporter covering a Poison concert at the resort, gets far too little time devoted to it. It felt like a number of scenes from it were cut for time, and it prevented me from being able to seriously buy them as later getting married, which was a shame, since the two of them had great chemistry and were easily among my favorite characters in the film. In broad strokes, however, it's a great exploration of the lack of maturity that these guys have. They're assholes, by and large, and the film is largely about them realizing that and gaining the self-confidence they need to stop being assholes. It's a lot like a sci-fi version of Neighbors, a movie filled with a ton of sex jokes and crude humor but which is, underneath it all, a surprisingly poignant and heartfelt exploration of nostalgia and clinging to the past. These forty-something dudes want to go back to their glory days in the '80s, but when they actually get there, they're hit head-on with all the crap they chose to forget about that time -- Adam's first bad breakup, Nick's dreams of a music career dying in front of a jeering crowd, and Lou getting picked on by the rich snobs. The presence of Jacob, a walking millennial stereotype who literally lives in his uncle's basement doing nothing but play Second Life, only illustrates how, fundamentally, absolutely nothing has changed between the "good ol' days" and today. Adam may scorn his nephew, but he was just as big a loser when he was that age.

That said, this is still a friggin' hilarious comedy. John Cusack plays the straight man here, leaving the big laughs to Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry, who are allowed to run wild with their hammy personas -- Robinson as a man who's torn between sticking to the time stream and cheating on a wife who he hasn't even met yet, and Corddry as a man controlled by his id who does all the stupid shit that comes to his mind. Without spoiling anything, both of them get amazing musical numbers that absolutely steal the show. Crispin Glover and Chevy Chase also make great, hilarious cameos, while Sebastian Stan nails the look and style of every '80s teen movie villain, an updated version of Biff Tannen. The humor ranges from '80s nostalgia to dick jokes and everywhere in between, and the ratio of hits to misses is excellent. Again, it's hard to talk about a really funny comedy for too long without ruining the jokes, so I'll just say this: if you can handle a raunchy sex comedy, you'll feel right at home watching this.

Score: 4 out of 5

It's not the best comedy to come out in the last several years, but as long as you don't put too much thought into the shaky plot, it's definitely in the upper echelon of hilarious R-rated romps. Gut-bustingly funny and a bit smarter than you'd expect from the title, Hot Tub Time Machine is the sort of movie that I can easily rewatch many times on DVD.


And now, for the sequel...

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (2015)

Rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, graphic nudity, drug use and some violence

H... how? How did this happen? You had the same writer and director as the original film, and three of the four main cast members returning, so how did you fuck it up so badly? In case you couldn't tell from my tone, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is a fucking awful movie. Whereas the original had me feeling like I had the time of my life, this dreadful sequel left me feeling cold, stern, and joyless on the drive home. This can scarcely be called a comedy, seeing as how I only chuckled twice during its runtime. This was anti-humor, sucking all the fun out of the theater and making me consider walking out and demanding a refund more than once. It was so bad that I started hating the original just for spawning it. There are no circumstances under which I can recommend this piece of shit to even the most desperate -- if you really need to see a funny movie, just throw in the original again.

One thing that became readily apparent here was just how vital John Cusack was to the original film. His character gave us a relatively grounded figure to root for, an anchor of stability in all the zaniness going on around him. Here, however, he's nowhere to be seen, which wouldn't have been too bad if a) his replacement, played by Adam Scott, had been a decent substitute for him, and b) if the film didn't constantly go out of its way to call attention to the fact that Cusack wasn't there.  It's obvious that Cusack's character was the glue that held the chemistry of the four friends in the original film together, as without him, there's scarcely any plot or point to this movie at all as it constantly runs around like a headless chicken clucking "look at me, I'm so cray-cray!" Truth be told, however, I can't blame Cusack (or Lizzy Caplan, for that matter) for deciding not to return for a second go-around, because the jokes... well, here's the thing. There are a lot of scenes that this movie thinks are jokes, mistaking wacky situations for humor in their own right rather than trying to actually mine humor out of them. The result is a film that thinks shock value is funny by itself, constantly throwing its characters into ever-more-outrageous situations and never building on them. We see a self-driving future car going all Terminator on Lou after he attacks it, and Not-Adam going on an acid trip in the club, but it's all played completely straight. It eventually leads to scenes that really come off as more disturbing than anything, such as when Lou subjects Not-Adam to getting anally raped by Nick on a game show, all while informing us that such shocking, graphic, obscene shows are some of the biggest hits on television in the future world that the film takes place in. Let the implications sink in. And we're supposed to be rooting for the main characters to stop the guy who tried to kill Lou?

The future? Lou getting killed? Oh, right, the plot. Whereas the first film's story could descend into a timey-wimey ball, it was otherwise straightforward enough that you could ignore it and focus on laughing your ass off. Here, however, the film once again draws frequent attention to its greatest shortcomings. Its plot revolves around Lou, now a successful Silicon Valley mogul whose company is circling the drain now that he's run out of ideas to steal from our world, getting shot in the dick and almost killed, only saved when his friends throw him into the time machine. Lou, Nick, and Jacob must now find the killer in the year 2025, deducing that, since the time machine brought them to the future, the assassin must have traveled back in time to kill Lou. Problem is, there are so many people with grudges against Lou for his asshole behavior that it could be anyone. The film makes constant attempts to explain just how time travel is supposed to work, all of which fail to make a lick of sense and instead get tangled up in knots, and I couldn't push it out of my head because I kept being reminded of it from start to finish. And again, the plot takes frequent backseats for that cray-cray headless chicken to run around, only to butt in again at the most inopportune moments.

Score: 1 out of 5

God, I just hated this film so much that, if I kept going, my review would've devolved into just pure incoherent rage. It took everything I loved about the original and violated it, wearing its skin like Buffalo Bill and making a mockery of all the laughs, wit, and spark that it possessed. There were only two other people in the theater with Mary and me, and I wanted to sock the both of 'em for being so dumb as to think this piece of shit was funny. If you have any taste in humor, avoid this movie like the motherfucking plague.

No comments:

Post a Comment