Sunday, 16 May 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

Hot Tub Time Machine by rights should coin a new style of movie: the Ronseal movie, saying all that needs to be said in its very title, rendering all expectation redundant. After all, even without seeing it, one knows exactly what to expect from Hot Tub: a symbol of 80s decadence will allow 4 losers to escape back to the era of Reagan and leg-warmers, an undeniably witty idea that is sadly stretched too thin over a 90 minute narrative. It's the very embodiment of a one-joke concept.

Said losers comprise of John Cusack (also producing) as Adam, whose girlfriend has just run away with his television; Craig Robinson's Nick whose job is helping dogs with their digestion; teenager Jacob (Clark Duke); and heavy drinking, vulgar Lou (Rob Corddry). Lou's early attempt at apparent suicide prompts the lads to pack up and spend a weekend at their favourite ski resort, which of course has transformed into a boarded up hovel, as has their hotel, at which they've shared many an acid-fuelled memory.

One drunken binge in the eponymous hot tub later and they find themselves somehow transported back to 1986 (unaware at first, in one of the film's better sequences, of all the lurid purple suits of their fellow skiers). The race is then on to repeat the events of the past, at the risk of changing the future/present, Back to the Future-style. There may even be a chance to introduce a bit of rnb to the glam rock crowd...

Of course, a film with a one-joke title shouldn't be denied its chance at an audience; The Hangover did brilliantly last year. But it's undeniably disappointing that, with Hot Tub, that's all there is to offer, a nifty, charmingly outmoded notion that the 80s, with all their problems, were the hallowed times for the film's leads. There's even a fab idea, sadly undercooked, that sees younger Jacob threaten to vanish altogether, given his imminent conception is under threat from the changing course of events. Even Chevy Chase pops up in a canny piece of casting as the mythical tub repairman (where has he been?), as does Crispin Glover in the film's funniest gag as the bellhop who at some point will lose his arm in a dreadful fashion.

However, that's all it remains as: a concept. Certainly a treat for 80s kids who will relish the retro soundtrack, period details (cassettes; Commie suspicion) and bad hair, the descent into mindless gross out gags elsewhere drags it down. It's a real shame given the credentials of indie king Cusack who nevertheless anchors the narrative with his usual hangdog charm. It ultimately boasts all the effect of a real hot tub: tickling while it lasts but it doesn't linger in the memory. Its most intriguing by-product is an unintentional one: that it arrives this year as part of a batch of 80s nostalgia flicks and remakes, ones that celebrate a kind of lurid cinematic heritage from the era of the Rubik's Cube, the ghetto blaster and Black Box. Ride on time, indeed...

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