I wasn’t going to write about Hot Tub Time Machine which I saw last night until my monthly round up, but city of tongues brought this very apposite article by A O Scott to my attention so I couldn’t resist.
Let it be said from the outset that Hot Tub Time Machine is not feat of cinematic brilliance. It has some slightly dodgy depictions of women (and men for that matter) and it does really somewhat on gross-out humour and some stupid jokes. But there is also a cleverness about it, and it is well done. As a dead-centre Gen Xer (and let’s for a moment pause and remember that there are more differences between members of a generation than there are between generation, but nonetheless), the film was hilarious. I laughed a lot, and I’m sure it wasn’t just the RTD gin & tonics we snuck in that caused that. A film about Gen Xers time travelling back to 1986 in a hot tub which stars John Cusack, probably the most grounded-in-the-1980s of stars (if Andrew McCarthy was still appearing anywhere, they might be able to arm wrestle for that title), always had potential. But casting Crispin Glover, best known for his appearances in those very Gen X formative films about kooky time travel – Back To the Future was a master stroke of winking referentialism, added to with cameos by people like William Zabka, best remembered by those of us of a certain age for his Karate Kid appearances, and you have a film which has thought about how to bond with its audience. Those viewers under 30 may not understand the humour in the references to Red Dawn or why it is hilarious to see the ski patrol boys so puzzled by the energy drink can from Russia, but let’s be honest, this film really wasn’t intended for them anyway.
In his article Scott compares Hot Tub Time Machine with The Big Chill as films which capture the midlife crisis of a generation. Like me, he prefers Hot Tub. Both films enthusiastically revisit the music of the youth of their protagonists, and let’s say that Nick’s rendition of Jesse’s Girl in Hot Tub was quite a highlight. Both film see folk of a certain age forced to confront their expectations and hopes at a certain age and compare them with where they end up. And how they do that says something about the nature of the differences between two generations which have, in their own ways, tried to maintain an eternal youth. In Big Chill there is a lot of self-important introspection, the protagonists were going to make the world a better place but have manifestly failed to do this. In Hot Tub it is not a matter of failed idealism, but of the failure of promise and expectation, and the introspection is anything but self-important. In Big Chill the characters are brought to these reconsiderations by the death of one of them in a big country house where they cook and sing and talk endlessly. In Hot Tub they are brought together by a possible suicide attempt in a garage with vodka, and hot tub controls which react to the chemicals in a dodgy energy drink. The characters drink and have sex, and wait to see when the bell boy will lose his arm. The deep seriousness of The Big Chill underlines the very seriousness with which the Legacy Of The Sixties and the Importance Of The Baby Boom generation has come to gather, while the absolute flippancy of Hot Tub Time Machine shows that Generation X, as a group, have never had the space to think of themselves in that way, despite the massive changes witnessed as a generation and their own role in those changes.
And hey “I write Stargate fan fiction, so I think I know about time travel.”