Friday, March 23, 2012

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE (no, seriously)

Hot Tub Time Machine, which wants nothing more than to be a screwball farce, succeeds beyond any expectations suggested by the title - Roger Ebert  

I know quoting Roger Ebert, a man who's had a personal vendetta against one of my  favorite directors since day one (David Lynch), may not mean much to some of you, but in the case of 'Hot Tub Time Machine' he does have a point. I think we can all agree that comedies don't get alotta love on snobbish movie blogs (like PINNLAND EMPIRE) but I'm slowly trying to change all that. Back in the late 70's before Leos Carax went on to become one of the best modern french directors around (in my opinion at least), he wrote for french film magazine; Cahier Du Cinema (like many other french directors including; Francois Truffaut, Olivier Assayas, Eric Rohmer, etc). What got him notoriety was his review/critical analysis of the Sylvester Stallone B-Movie: Paradise Alley (I'm aware its not exactly a "comedy" but lets be real, no one takes that movie seriously...except for Carax). This set him apart from the other writers at Cahier Du Cinema because this wasn't the typical Sam Fuller, Jean Luc Godard, Jim Jarmuch, John Cassavetes-type movie his fellow french writers reviewed. In a way that review (which you can read right here) kinda inspired this write-up/review. After a while it gets a little depressing watching and then writing about SO many heavy, depressing, surreal and/or serious films ('The Seventh Continent', 'Michael', 'The Intruder', 'Once Upon A Time In Anatolia', etc) Sometimes you need a break from all that. In my personal experience I find that these days more and more movie snobs, film buffs and cinephiles have taken to silly comedies like 'Harold & Kumar', 'Super Troopers' & 'Saving Silverman' because you don't have to invest yourself in them too much. You can just let go and laugh at the ridiculousness. Sure there's "sophisticated" comedies out there like 'Dr. Strangelove' or 'Monty Python's And The Holy Grail', but even those have legitimate/legendary directors attached to them, so when you watch something like Dr Strangelove you still subconsciously think about all the other films attached to Kubrick's work like 2001, Barry Lyndon or Clockwork Orange. Sometimes I don't want that. I want a comedy that has NOTHING to do with art house, AFI lists, film comment, Jonathan Rosenbaum, etc. A stupid comedy with dick & fart jokes (yeah, I said it). I think a person like myself who gets so engulfed in the world of directors like Michael Haneke and Andrei Tarkovsky has a right to feel that way every once in a while. I don't care what you guys think! But then at the same time look at what I've written so far... I cant even write about a comedy like 'HOT TUB TIME MACHINE' without name dropping directors like Leos Carax and Michael Haneke (who I'm convinced doesn't have a sense of humor).

Just from the title alone I thought this movie was going to be BEYOND stupid (no matter how many silly comedies I like). The only reason I gave 'Hot Tub Time Machine' a chance was because a few friends who's opinions I trust actually said it was funny (one in particular put it on their top 10 of 2010!). So naturally curiosity got the best of me because I'm always in search for a good laugh.

There haven't been too many great comedies in the last decade. Furthermore, the recent comedies that I DO actually consider to be great are made to feel like guilty pleasures because they involve masturbation scenarios & insults like; "chicken fucker" (Super Troopers), men getting ass cheek implants & murdered with Javelins (Saving Silverman), jive/gibberish talk & murderous gorillas (Pootie Tang), pissing on wedding rings & roundhouse kicking little kids in the face (The Foot Fist Way) and surprisingly funny cameos by people i normally DON'T consider to be funny like; Jamie Kennedy and Anthony Anderson (Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle). Other great recent comedies include stuff like 'In The Loop' or 'Tristram Shandy' but those films kinda fall in to the same category as Strangelove and Holy Grail. 'Hot Tub Time Machine' falls in to that Super Troopers/Pootie Tang/Saving Silverman Category. Sorry but it has everything that makes a comedy funny to me. Unnecessary vulgar language (sometimes involving little kids), a humorous amuputation scene, one of those parts were someone says something that pertains to the title of the movie then intentionally stares directly in to the camera (lol), inappropriate dick jokes and lines like; "HEY! I write stargate fan-fiction" or "Oh my god I almost passed out you're such a nerd". The plot to 'Hot Tub Time Machine is pretty simple: John Cusack, his two best friends (Rob Cordry & Craig Robinson) and his nephew (Clark Duke) go on a ski trip and accidentally land back in time when the hot tub machine in their hotel room malfunctions (they end up back in time on the exact same day when they took the very same ski trip back in 1986). Now that they're back in time as teenagers (but only they can see each other as adults while everyone else sees them teenagers) they have to make sure not to change anything they did in the past as to not cause the butterfly effect (along with finding a way to get back to the present day). So now they have to relive/re-do everything they did on the very same day back in 1986 which involves getting stabbed with a fork, getting beat up and performing badly in a talent show. The time traveling/body switching element of the movie not only refers to 'Back To The Future', but it also plays off of all those father/son body switch movies of the 80's like '18 Again', 'Vice Versa' and the one with Kirk Cameron & Dudley Moore (I'm too lazy to look up the title on IMDB). Speaking of 80's movie references, 'Hot Tub Time Machine' has plenty of 'em. Some subtle (the constant one-liners from 'Better Of Dead', Chevy Chase's presence and all the references to 'Red Dawn') and some not to subtle (the somewhat disguised cameo appearance from the actual actor who played "Johnny" in 'The Karate Kid' as well as Crispin Glover who is somewhat of an important figure in American/cult-ish 80's cinema thanks to 'Rivers Edge', 'At Close Range' and of course...'Back To The Future').
Don't get me wrong, there are a few cringeworthy moments (kinda impossible to avoid those in a movie with a premise like a time traveling hot tub) and the use of a Black Eyed Peas song doesn't really sit well with me either, but overall this was an underrated comedy that got blown off by people like myself who take themselves and the movies they watch a little too seriously sometimes. I hope this write-up doesn't take away from PINNLAND EMPIRE's credibility (I also hope that we can get to a point where I don't have to write a little disclaimer like that just because I wrote about a silly comedy).


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