Friday, July 23, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine Blu-ray Review

I think most people have at some point wondered “what if” whether it’s about a girl or boy in your past or a decision you made long ago that still keeps you awake at night on occasion.  I think if everyone (myself included) were given the opportunity to find out how things could have been different knowing what they know now, they would jump at the chance if they had access to let’s say a GMC Delorean or in this case a Hot Tub Time Machine. These time travel movies are a weakness of mine for that very reason but this one has the added benefit of our fun loving guys traveling back to a decade I love…the 80s.  The 80s to me represent the best of my formative years. This movie is aimed squarely at Generation X – the kids that were born in either the late 60s or the 70s and really grew up saturated with the movies, music, cartoons, and arcade games of the 80s which still make up most of my favorites in each category. So grab your can of Chernobyl√© and let’s jump in the hot tub!

Film  (4 out of 5 stars)

First off, this movie made me laugh…a lot.  During interviews, John Cusack said that he accepted the role based on the title alone and it’s not hard to understand.  The story of four guys who are in a rut traveling back in time in a Hot Tub is just too fun a concept to resist, especially when you add in 80s icon Chevy Chase to the mix.  The movie opens with a glimpse into the lives of the middle aged characters.  Adam (John Cusack) has returned home to an empty house and an angry message from his ex letting him know in no uncertain terms that they are over.  Adam is almost indifferent and almost seems numb to the news and doesn’t seem to be surprised at all and the only regret he shows is over the loss of his tv.  We get the idea that this isn’t the first or the last time this will happen to him.  His houseguest, his young nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) isn’t do much better as he spends his entire life playing online games like Second Life.  They are both cut off from real life in different ways but both seem unable to do anything about it.  Adam’s old buddies aren’t faring much better as Nick (Craig Robinson) has given up his dream of a music career and now works in a dog salon exercising dogs and other unmentionable things.  Worst of all is Lou, played with gusto by Rob Corddry, a man who loves living on the edge and may or may not be ready take his own life.  Even his own friends want nothing to do with him in fear of being dragged down with him.  As Adam tells him, “You are the patron saint of the totally fucked. You’re completely toxic. There’s nothing you can’t kill. You’re the fucking Violator!”  Of course, all of their issues and hang-ups only add to the hilarity as they verbally abuse each other as close friends really do.

Due to Lou’s issues, the group gets back together to return to the Kodiak Valley resort, the place of their heyday when they were young in an attempt to recapture their elusive past and to reconnect with each other.  As with most things in life, they discover that it’s a lot harder than expected as they and the resort have changed quite a bit over the years.  The resort is now completely run down and the room they used to party in is no longer the happening place they remember. On top of all that, their hot tub not only doesn’t work, but it also has a long dead raccoon in it.  Magically though, their hot tub is quickly fixed and the story kicks into gear as they start drinking and fooling around in the hot tub until an illegal energy drink from Russia is inadvertently spilled onto the hot tub controls and the four guys are sent back to 1986.
After a visit from the mysterious and deliberately vague hot tub repairman (a fantastic Chevy Chase), the guys determine that they need to follow the logic from the Terminator movies and retrace their steps exactly so they don’t mess up the timeline.  For Adam, he has to breakup again with his old girlfriend, a decision that later in life he regretted.  In the present day he now thinks of her as the girl that got away (or as they call her the White Buffalo).  Nick has to sleep with a groupie which is a problem as he doesn’t want to cheat on his wife who in this time period is 9 years old, and Lou has to get his ass beat by some ski instructors who are wannabe Red Dawn commandoes.  The only one who doesn’t fit it and doesn’t look years younger is Jacob, who figures out that he may not exist in the future if they tamper too much with the timeline.  As with all time travel movies there’s some effort and maintaining the timeline but by the end of the movie, things are irrevocably changed in an amusing manner.  A nice nod to Back to the Future was the inclusion of Crispin Glover who played George McFly.  In this, he is a bitter one armed bellhop in the present but as the boys travel back in time they see him with both arms and constantly in jeopardy of losing one.  In a recurring gag, they keep waiting to see when he will lose his arm and it adds a lot of dark humor to the movie.

It’s amusing to see the guys get what they wanted only to discover that it wasn’t really what they were looking for. For Adam, when he is reunited with the girl who got away, she isn’t really who he is interested in after a chance meeting with April (Lizzy Caplan) who tries to get him to let go of the past and enjoy the present.  Nick gets back in touch with his musical past but discovers he still needs his wife despite his belief that he thinks she cheated on him.  Lou who never liked kids and wanted nothing to do with marriage ends up seeing things differently but Lou being Lou, can only change so much but in his own unique way he also breaks out of his rut in an innovative fashion.  The movie has perfect casting for every role and this really gives Rob Corddry his chance to shine.  His Lou could be the bitter older brother of Stifler from American Pie and he gives the role his all.  John Cusack is great as always as the laconic Adam and the movie even has a fun nod to his 80s movie past with a scene of him in a trench coat.  Craig Robinson is always great on The Office and it’s nice to see him take on a larger role as the nice guy Nick and Robinson’s deadpan expression and improv skills are put to good use here.  Clark Duke took a role that in most cases would have been annoying and made the character funny.  Throughout the movie, he is the voice of reason although it’s mainly out of a sense of self-preservation.

For a fun crowd pleasing movie, there are a lot of layered concepts in the movie and I liked how it addressed them in an easy hilarious way.  The movie will most likely be enjoyed more by guys as they can relate to the characters a lot. That’s not to say that women won’t enjoy this as well but it does seem to be directed more at men.  From the curious bonds of male friendship where things are always deeper than they seem, to the white buffalo that got away that all men still think of, this is a movie that most men can relate to.  All together now…great white buffalo.

Video (4 out of 5 stars)

This 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer looks great and I think it looks better than the print I saw in the theater.  Colors are sharp especially noticeable during the return to 1986 with all of the neon colors about, but also throughout the film.  The golden glow from the hot tub, the ladies, the rich mahogany of the lodge (well during ’86 anyway, 2010 not so much), and it’s a great transfer all around.  No DNR overuse and it’s a nice clean picture and it’s about the best you can expect from a movie that was shot on 35mm film.  Frankly, it looks better than it should.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)

The film’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is also excellent and I had to reach for my remote several times whenever the soundtrack made its presence known in fear that I would wake my son.  This is a disc you can rock out on with a killer 80s soundtrack that includes INXS, Spandau Ballet, Talking Heads, Motley Crue, and more.  It’s too bad they didn’t have a music only track to listen to.  But then again, the special features are the weakest part of this disc but I’ll get o that in a bit.  What’s even more interesting is that Poison who makes an appearance in the movie (at least in name) isn’t on the official soundtrack but then again a lot of the songs in the movie aren’t on there either which is a shame. Anyway, the dialogue is clear and crisp and like I mentioned when the music get going your speakers and subwoofer will get a workout.  I also like the fact that the rear speakers got a little action with some ambient atmosphere.  I plan to watch this again when I can play it loud as it should be!

Special Features (2 out of 5 stars)

And now we come to the weak link of this disc.  For a movie that had so much hilarious potential for outtakes, we don’t get to see any. No commentary tracks and nothing of real substance.  We get some short featurettes that come off as teasers for longer features but alas it wasn’t meant to be.  Maybe someday there will be a Hot Tub Time Machine – Violator Special Edition that will have lots of cool stuff. For now, here is what you get:
  • Deleted Scenes – Nothing that great except for some funny improvisation from Corddry and Robinson.

  • Production: Acting Like Idiots – Typical EPK fluff with a few a sound bites from the cast.

  • Chevy Chase: The Nicest Guy in Hollywood – I did enjoy this even though it was ridiculously short but then again I love Chevy Chase.

  • Totally Radical Outfits: Dayna Pink – A discussion on the 80s outfits and how much she loved that era’s clothes.  Skip.

  • Crispin Glover: One Armed Bellhop – Having George McFly in the movie adds that little extra something that made me happy.  He’s great in the role too especially the angry 2010 version of the bellhop.

Final Thoughts (4 out of 5 stars)

This is a movie that I have already recommended to all of my male friends and one that I would suggest to anyone that likes fun movies that has an equal quotient of raunchiness, male bonding, and nostalgia which is tough to pull off.  I enjoyed watching it even more the second time and I’m sure I will be watching it again with some friends and with the sound turned up.  Between a great job by the actors including the welcome return of Chevy Chase and some great 80s music, this is a must buy disc for any male between 30-45 years old.  It’s not every movie that you get to see a squirrel get hit by projectile vomit.  Childish, yes but it still made me laugh and I bet you will too.  Great white buffalo!

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