Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day 28: In Which The Best Movie Ever Isn't Quite

David and I went to see Hot Tub Time Machine this afternoon. (Thanks for watching Jarrah, Steph! You're awesome!) Why did we do that, Readers? A better question is, what did we wait SO LONG? I mean, the promise of complete awesomeness is right there in the film's title, as you can plainly read: Hot. Tub. Time. Machine. See, there's a hot tub. And it's a time machine. No explanation necessary--hand me some Junior Mints and I'm good to go. Throw in Chevy Chase as a wizardly repairman and a Russian Red Bull called "Cherno-blee" to create the "electrical fritzing element" and I'm in a total swoon.

But seriously, Readers. I know you care about me, and because of that you're necessarily concerned that my judgment has been impaired, perhaps by a recent blow to the head. Never you fear. I am completely of sound mind and body, and was not being coerced, threatened, bribed or blackmailed in any way. Let me walk you through the particulars that just seemed too awesome to resist:

1. The hot tub time machine. But I believe I already mentioned that.
2. John Cusack. No, please: Do not bring up Say Anything. Yeah, it was fine. Yeah, yeah, Peter Gabriel, trench coat, yada yada. I am a The Sure Thing and Better Off Dead fan.
3. That guy from The Office. He was hilarious in Knocked Up.
4. That guy from The Daily Show. He scares me--in a good way.
5. The description "The time machine sends them back to 1986." How awesome was 1986? What's that you say? You have no idea? Well, sucks to be you. 1986 rocked. The hair, the fashion, the music...I couldn't wait.

So, the movie starts out darker than I expected. People trying to off themselves, everyone seeming miserable and swearing a lot. The funniest bit was this guy in glasses--younger than everyone else--who plays John Cusack's nephew and spends all his time in the basement playing virtual world games. He cracked me up every time he opened his mouth. By the time they all got to a broken-down ski resort that was the site of their youthful glory, I was feeling a little unsettled. And that was before a one-armed Crispin Glover showed up as their bell hop.

After a debauched night of drunken revelry in the hot tub (um, and that was naked drunken revelry, guys only) they wake up in 1986. They know this because they go to the ski lodge and Reagan is on TV, the ski bunnies are wearing leg warmers, the cell phones are the size of shoe boxes (but really, were there even cell phones?) and there's a big banner saying "Winterfest 1986." With surprising equanimity, they accept their fate, and decide they need to reproduce their own Winterfest 1986 exactly to avoid "The Butterfly Effect." Young nephew Jacob is especially concerned, since he fears that any disruption to the time-space continuum might result in his not being born.

So, one guy has to have sex in the bathtub, another needs to break up with his girlfriend and get stabbed with a plastic fork for his trouble, and another needs to allow some Pretty in Pink-types to smack him down. Easy peasy, right? But not so much, because some of the time-space continuum NEEDS to be disrupted so that these sad-sack schlubs don't return to 2010 just as miserable and pathetic as when they left.

So, I was a bit dissatisfied with how some of this played out. For one thing, there was more vomit, piss and other bodily fluids than I strictly require for my cinematic satisfaction. That's a small gripe, however. I was more dissatisfied with the short shrift given to 1986 (I had the same experience seeing what they did with 1987 in Adventureland last fall, despite all the praise heaped on their efforts.) I mean, what did it mean for them to be young in 1986, aside from it being the right time to attend a Poison concert? I told David afterwards that the filmmakers were in a delicate position, because it's the kind of movie that needs to attract that all-important 18-24 male demographic, while that's precisely the demographic that can't relate to 1986 at all. So they went for the superficial references (I swear every '80s Top 40 song got trotted out for eight bars) while avoiding anything stickier.

On the flip side, I felt they missed an opportunity to make 1986 funny through the perspective of the youth of today. After all, they had a 20-year-old along for the ride, and he spends most of his time freaking out about fixing the time machine and virtually no time at all partying, getting laid and/or having his coming-of-age epiphany. There was one quick bit with him that I found charming, after he meets a girl he likes at the concert. Rushing off, he says helplessly:

"Can I text you later?"


"Um, are you on-line much?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"How can I get in touch with you?"

"How can you get in touch with me? You come and find me."

"That sounds so...exhausting."

Hee. But that's the last we hear about that. And maybe that's how it had to be. This "learning and growing" experience isn't for him; he'll have time for his own time-travel-type regrets in 20 years. This story is about the three guys who look in the mirror and see the baby selves they can barely remember. David said, "I thought we were going to see them running into their former selves in 1986."

"But wouldn't that break the rules of time travel?" I asked. He laughed.

"What are the rules of time travel?" Right. The rules are whatever the movie says they are. And here the rules say that you can go back in time in a hot tub, you can go forward in time in a hot tub, and you can change your entire life in a hot tub. Why the hell not? It's as good a fantasy as any.

But a movie that makes up new rules any time it needs to for the sake of plot propulsion is probably not going to meet my expectations for a richly tapestried narrative. "It wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be," I said afterward. "But, I mean, what did I expect, with a title like that?" David thought that was precisely the point--it probably didn't make sense to expect anything.


Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Why do I still think I want to see it? I'm hopeless, right?

You're too funny!

miss. chief said...

I definitely want to see it...I love pretty much everything that crew of actors is in.

Sam said...

Oh, you should still totally see it. It's funny. It's just...not quite what I expected. :)

Anonymous said...

So, in Say Anything... ;)

I am ridiculous about Better Off Dead -- or used to be. I knew most of the lines, once upon a time.

Sadder but wiser, I will go to see this film.

I'd love to have you email me with more of your thoughts on how they could have better used its setting in 1986. Really. Pretty, pretty please! My book is set in '68/'69, and I could really use some guidance on how to use the era without going overboard and turning it into the usual caricature of hippies and protests and war (oh my).

The Wades said...

You almost sold me. Ya know, I would never have expected you to see something like that. Makes me laugh. You're so edgy--and cussy in this. Good times.

David said...

Spoiler warning: the time travel in HTTM analyzed by a Physics Professor