Mar 30 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

Last night, a friend and I went to see Steve Pink’s sci-kitsch comedy, “Hot Tub Time Machine“. I’m not exactly sure why I wanted to see this movie; my expectations weren’t exactly high. I’ve liked time-travel comedies in the past (e.g., “Back to the Future” (1985), “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (1989), “Blast from the Past“), so maybe I was looking for more of the same? Maybe I just liked the name, reminds me of “Snakes on a Plane” (2006). I also like a number of the actors: John Cusack, Rob Corddry (of “The Daily Show” fame), Crispin Glover, and of course Chevy Chase. The preceding list are just the actors I was familiar with going into the movie, Clark Duke (soon to appear in “Kick-Ass” (2010)) and Craig Robinson (from the American version of “The Office”) more than held their own.

The movie follows a group of middle-aged friends whose lives haven’t turned-out quite the way they expected. When one of their number tries to commit suicide they are drawn together and decide to spend a weekend catching-up at an old ski resort that they frequented when they were younger. An accident with a Russian energy-drink short-circuits the hot tub and they are catapulted back to 1986 (makes perfect sense!) to relive a pivotal night of their young lives. Thankfully, the movie does not try to explain how or why this happens. The closest we get to an explanation is via random appearances of Chevy Chase as a hot tub repairman who may or may not know what’s going-on. During the movie, I thought the older men (Clark Duke’s character wasn’t alive in 1986) had been astrally-projected into their younger bodies, but the ending pretty much destroyed that theory. Again, the mechanics don’t matter because  time-travel (short of time-dilation) is probably not possible anyway.

So, did I like it? Yes, I did. As an aside, hot tubs inevitably remind me of the slow-motion opening of “Change of Seasons” (1980) with Bo Derek (horrible movie BTW, but that section of the VHS tape had tracking problems by the time we returned it… just saying) . Back to HTTM. Sure, the movie dragged here and there. Sure, I never knew whether to laugh or cringe at Chevy Chase’s deadpan performance. Sure, John Cusack played the same character he ALWAYS plays (though curiously, his sister was no where to be seen). Sure, the sole purpose of the script may have been to put doughy middle-aged men together with beautiful young ski-bunnies…. but it was still funny. Maybe that had to do with my pre-movie ritual margarita preparations (which are a requirement before seeing any comedy) but I kind of doubt it since they were pretty weak! The movie is packed with 80s pop and music references. Warning: if you don’t remember the 80s, you won’t get half of the jokes. The catheter scene had me laughing like I haven’t laughed (in a movie) in years. Low-brow, sure. Funny, yes! Glover’s bellboy character was awesome. But more than anything else, this will be Corddry’s ticket to bigger movies, much like “The 40 Year Old Virgin” was for Steve Carell. I only hope that enough people see it (it ranked #3 in it’s opening weekend) to make that happen. So… If bodily fluids can still make you snicker, if foul language doesn’t make you all uppity, if you can laugh at uncomfortable sexual humor, and you won’t be running off afterward to see if “A Brief History of Time” has any mention of Chernobyl soft-drinks… you have a good chance of liking this movie too.

“It looks like Gary Coleman’s forearm.”

4 out of 5

Dec 27 2009

A Christmas Carol

Jacob Marley's GhostToday, I finished Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella “A Christmas Carol“. I was familiar with the story before picking up the book (you’d be hard-pressed finding a Christmas-celebrant who wasn’t familiar with the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge). The story is as much a part of the holiday as Christmas trees, exchanging gifts, and vain attempts at skirting family drama for 24 hours. The holiday was also a time to find myself parked in front of the television, wrapped in a robe and blanket, flipping through UHF channels looking for something to watch. If it wasn’t “A Christmas Carol” (1938), it was often “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947); for some reason, I never saw “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) until much, much later. I could have gone out and enjoyed the snow but I never liked it much. The snow  always ended up melting in my boots or (if my brother was around) getting stuffed into my hood and down the back of my coat. None of which has anything to do with the book. In later years, I discovered the Richard Donner adaptation “Scrooged” (starring Bill Murray). Who couldn’t like the thought of stapling antlers to the heads of mice in spirit of Christmas?!

For those who are not familiar with the tale (how is that possible?) the story revolves around an old miser who after several visitations from the spirit-world (or possibly just a restless night?), is imbued with the Christmas Spirit.  What is the Christmas Spirit? Well, to Dickens at least, it’s having mercy on his readers and writing a story that comes in under 150 pages. Other than that, old Ebenezer is forced to remember what people used to mean to him and how he let that all slip away. Even if you’re a bit of a humbug about the whole Christmas thing, this story has a great deal to offer about choices, consequences, and redemption. Who wouldn’t be changed and/or humbled by the sight of their own weed-choked grave?

So, what message did I take from my first reading of this story? Never let life stray far from the reason that life is worth living, friends and family. It’s a sentiment that makes me gag on the one hand (that would be the 12 year old boy inside me) and makes me sit in silent agony on the other, as my imagination conjures the graves of all I have ever loved: past, present, and future.

“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!” – Ebenezer Scrooge to Jacob Marley’s Ghost, Charles Dickens

5 out of 5