Inerrant Rampancy

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Hot Tub Time Machine

…The best parody of John Cusack films–STARRING JOHN CUSACK!

My girlfriend and I rented Hot Tub Time Machine yesterday, mostly because there wasn’t anything else we could agree on. This movie felt safe, in that we both had positive reactions to the previews and hadn’t heard anything terrible about it from our friends. I, in fact, had heard it favorably compared to The Hangover, which I absolutely loved, and so was ready to give this a shot. Hell, I even had…expectations.

But while I expected one-liners, tits, and a mild to moderate level of self-awareness, I was not expecting an homage to the films objectively most famous actor and (shocker!) co-producer.  To be totally honest, this film is an homage to nearly all 1980’s phenomena, including ALF, Sixteen Candles, Back to the Future, Karate Kid, Kid ‘n Play, Red Dawn, as well as any movie set at a ski lodge or involving a group of more than two male friends or about young love…you get the picture.

The Cusack references are probably the best and most obvious, though, in part because Cusack is also in the freakin’ movie! It’s some kind of meta-commentary on the absurdity of making new movies about old subjects that were obviously done better the first time around but also on the inability of those originals to stay relevant in light of changing technology, philosophy, and the aging of their lead actors. Fact is, this movie is an amazing thing to watch on both the mildly and highly involved levels.

If you’re not looking to pay too much attention, then you’ll love Rob Corddry and his foul-mouthed dead pan. He’s a fully fleshed out asshole, and believable every step of the way. He also nails the sad redemption of said assholery, and in the end plays even stronger than Cusack, who’s a bit too practiced to be impressive. The film’s self-awareness keeps the camp in check, or at least makes you realize that it’s pretty much all intentional, and it also keeps you from railing against the many (many many many) anachronistic flaws (the Rambo III poster, the various songs dropped too early, the non-existence of Poison in January 1986, the football game that wasn’t on at night or in December 1986 and which was definitely not played in Denver, Jacob being twenty years old and claiming he was born in 1986 yet the return to 2010–the list goes on).

But if you’d really like to get into the movie (and I recommend doing so) you’ve got to note the other Cusack films that exist alongside the base-level storyline. Essentially, the hot tub time machine part of Hot Tub Time Machine is an oversimplified, paradox-riddled time travel movie whose only job is to make you laugh. Guys go back in time, must do things exactly the same or ruin everything, don’t do things the same, manage to not ruin, simply change everything, make it back home without destroying the universe, learn to love again.

Running parallel to this movie, however, is another movie, starring the various iterations of John Cusack, in which we see his most memorable, though not necessarily greatest, performances parodied in glorious fashion. Remember John Cusack as an angsty high-schooler who thinks that this one relationship is the most important one? It’s in there. Remember him as the guy who leaves a potential relationship up to fate, with the idea that if it’s meant to be it will happen? In there. Remember when he’s a man-child whose entire life is played out in music making him an emotional train wreck and rendering him incapable of dealing with reality as it regards his love life? So in there. Even his bit part in Sixteen Candles is indirectly referenced in a scene he shares with Lizzy Caplan’s character (who happens to be an eerie almost-replica of Patrick Fugit’s character from Almost Famous). I haven’t seen all of Cusack’s work (something like 55 movie roles) but I’m sure there are others.

The simultaneous films-within-the-film make this a fun thing to watch, on par with playing a round of trivia. I spent a good chunk of it trying to pick out all the references to other movies, TV shows, music, and ideas, and would consider watching it again to look for more scenes that are obvious throwbacks, such as the aforementioned Sixteen Candles moment. Really, it’s hard to find a reason not to like Hot Tub Time Machine, as it’s just too conscious a film to be called dumb, too laugh-out-loud to be called unfunny, and too full of 1980s goodness to be anything but awesome to the max.


July 24, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Test comment

    Comment by JOe | September 27, 2010 | Reply

  2. You’re far more steeped in Eighties lore than I am, Joe. Even though I enjoyed the film, I suspect you did on a whole different level.

    But then, any movie with my favorite retrocomputer is okay by me!

    Comment by Ken G. | September 27, 2010 | Reply

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