“Hot Tub Time Machine” – Solid Rental

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My wife Cindy & I (Gene) saw “Hot Tub Time Machine” for the first time tonight. For those unfamiliar, it’s a movie from 2010 about three high school buds who go to a ski resort from their school days in an attempt to recapture some of the magic of their “glory years” and end up back in 1986… through the hot tub on the deck of their room.

I had high expectations for the humor and low expectations for the story. The results were almost reversed for me.

First, the soundtrack. The movie opens with Autograph’s “Turn Up The Radio.” Excellent choice. Then I noticed, this appeared to be a re-recording. It was OK, but I would have preferred the original. (I assume that would have cost a lot more money.)

The movie makes excellent use of the hits of the 80s without being TOO obvious in their choices: Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” is used in a couple of places to hilarious effect; I don’t know that I had ever seen anyone air-drumming toss and catch their drum stick before. We catch clips of Nu Shooz’s “I Can’t Wait,” INXS’s “What You Need,” Scritti Politti’s “Perfect Way,” and numerous other 80s classics throughout in a way that helps set the mood rather than distract (or worse, mock).

Did somebody say guest appearances? Holy cow, every time we turned around it felt like we were seeing somebody from the 80s: Chevy Chase, Crispin Glover (McFly!!!), and the band Poison all take their turns in front of the camera. None of them are working too hard at being “cameos,” which I think is a good thing. I was glad to see all of them.

The story was more thoughtful than I expected. So your life hasn’t turned out like you planned… if you have a chance to go back and do it again, do you change it and risk the consequences, or try to walk in exactly the same footsteps? Maybe more importantly: what happened to those high school friendships we SWORE we would never break?

The humor has some serious laugh-out-loud moments, but I wouldn’t call this a laugh-fest. The gaps between belly laughs sometime seem to stretch out quite far, but it’s not as much because of failed jokes as it is the more serious aspects of the underlying story. There’s an element of “Groundhog Day” to this movie, a need to figure out what went right & what went wrong, and work your way through your past.

It wasn’t a perfect representation of the 80s, and the “villain” in the movie has more in common with 80s movie villains than anybody I ever went to school with. Still, considering how overboard they could have gone, I thought the movie handled the decade with fairly gentle hands.

There are breasts in a couple of places, one vomit scene, and one scene of fairly unbelievable brief “gore,” but none of these things kept me from enjoying the movie… and I’m not one for gross-out humor or gore, so unless you just have zero tolerance, you should be OK.

I’ve described this movie as good, and it was. What it wasn’t, was great. It felt like there was tremendously unused potential in the environment, that the characters could have been further fleshed out, that there were bigger and longer jokes to be made… it just didn’t seem to reach the potential of the scenario.

I’d also like to think that my generation is a LITTLE more mature than the guys in this movie. True, we all knew guys like this in school… but even the guy I know who reminds me most of the “loose cannon” in the movie has matured and settled down a bit from his “wild-child” days. One problem facing this group is that they not only need to move on, they need to grow up.

As a child of the 80s, this is near-required viewing. It’s funny, it’s nostalgic, and maybe it says something about how we turned out as adults. Arguably, it is out generation’s “Back To The Future.” However, it is not the classic “Back To The Future” is. It’s worth viewing, but I would catch it on Redbox, PPV, or Netflix.

I’d also wait to purchase it until you’ve seen it; you may end up agreeing that “hot Tub Time Machine” was a good idea, under-utilized.

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