Monday, February 4, 2013

Hot Tub Time Machine: How to Laugh at Discovering How Old You Actually Are

Hot Tub Time Machine,of course the unrated version, did not disappoint, and further, it entertained. However, I have to pause and wonder who, besides me, the target market for this film might have been, and whether that helped or ultimately hurts the potential this film had to have been Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure most excellent instead of Blues Brothers 2000 should've been a contender.
Let me clarify my perspective, I grew up with John Cusack leading the way. He's a touch older than me and via cable access to R-rated cinema he's always been something of a handy role model, more than Kevin Bacon or Christian Slater even. He, or I should say the characters he portrayed, unwittingly set a bar I never really managed to leap over, though those Savage Steve,  Rob Reiner sorts of films did manage to inform a sort of moral compass I generally tried to adhere to.
John Cusack had my attention from the skillful way he hid a toke without gagging in Classinspired me to get limber with his athletic skills becoming useful versus a Godzilla costume in One Crazy Summer, and most of all seemed to get my left-handed perspectives  his artistic aspirations in many movies, looking at you, Better Off Dead. We won't get into my two decade plush man-crush on his sister Joan right now, thank you.
I don't remember whether I first saw any of his work on Steve's cable, or Sean's, my parents hadn't gotten a color TV yet so probably was Steve's. Doesn't matter much except to point out that what made life meaningful during those trepidations teenage years came from friends, peers, social groups, cliques even.  Kids trying to define themselves, maybe they had clear directives from their folks or institutions, or maybe they were simply given room to explore and self-manifest against a solid set of unwavering yet flexibly firm ground rules. I may have spent more time making surrogate families out of friends and clubs and teams and theater groups than I did building solid tiers of infrastructure within my own genetically bound brethren, perhaps because I had them already as solid foundation, perhaps because I took them for granted, perhaps because I'd been a witness to a nasty divorce and decided not to get that close to people obliged to love me so readily again, maybe just because I was doing what all kids must do at some point, ween from the parents and define the cut of their own jib.
All of the above and more I suspect.  Realizing now for not the first time that I owe large debts of gratitude to my peeps from those days, people that could tolerate my myriad brands of bullshit, people I could've dropped more concern for, reciprocated some compassion once in a while, afforded some emotional and social support instead of getting so mired with wanting to be liked, be popular, envied maybe, asked out once in a while would be nice. Strangely and at often at odds with my more vanity driven aspirations, I also spent a lot of time preoccupied with not ever wanting to be hated, to be disliked, to the point to cowering like a kicked puppy trying to suck up and compromise repeatedly to win some faux love from the strong types that might've felt offended, or threatened, or impatient, or perhaps, worst of all took no notice at all whatsoever.
Much of  my love to give to the cats that indulged me, informed me, rallied me, reality checked me. All my love as well for the cats I didn't do as much as I could've, the ones I took for granted, or used, or kept distance from for fear of negative associations from A crowd I so wanted to be a part of, envied until I could cry, the same cats I largely could give nary a chocolate malt ball about now, all that sell-out stupid compromise for what, so dodge some proverbial Glee slushies? To minimize my silhouette as a viable target with the jock types? Or just because I was so up my own ass with self-doubt, self-loathing, and what all amounts really to an inability to gauge self-worth or to set and pursue and commit too viable goals with confidence, humility, and an earnest will to learn as much from failure as success? Irrelevant now at best, rhetorical at worst.
What does any of this have to do with Hot Tube Time Machine? Effectively everything, as I feel the film could've gone further, done more than homage Cusack's early days with references to 2 dollars and costume cameos, have really dug into the premise that if you could take what you know now and take the helm of who you were back then, you might be able to right wrongs, avoid wrecks, and make good things infinitely better. Its the premise that makes films like Back to the Future, another staple of my formative years, so fetching. Or how about that flick about the dirt biker that somehow ends up being his own grand dad, or something. Maybe that one was just playing in the South. I digress.
Hot Tub Time Machine seems conflicted to me because I grew up with the protagonist, or at least, the actor the character seems specifically written for, and like the protagonist, I'm confronting an adulthood I think could have been different, albeit for radically different reasons. I'm not saying I'm unhappy with where the mid-life milestone passes by outside the Flintstone RV window, however do I think I could've wasted far less time, maintained relationships better and more fairly, and maybe have done a few dozen hundred other things differently to make lives better, starting with everyone I care about and ending with my sad sack.
The film is light, glib, occasionally schoolyard gross, and I think that's playing to the cheap seats, and by cheap seats, I mean kids too young to fully appreciate the magnitude of what this event would actually mean to a trio of middle-aged men, to travel back to what might be subjectively described as your prime years to effectively play your life like a replay with cheat codes written on the inside of your forearm.
I dig the flim, just wish it'd been deeper, more thoughtful, and more inquisitive. Perhaps that sort of breadth and depth might have been possible if the target audience had been more specific, 30-40 somethings welcome and teen to 20 somethings can bugger off, go watch Olsen twins or discover beer and make new TFLNs or something.
PS Mighty huge thanks to Lara Shannon for a couple of those 80's snaps, hopefully you'll not mind my reuse of them for a goofy film review!

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