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Jun 29, 2010

Seriously Overdue Movie Reviews: Hot Tub Time Machine, Clash of the Titans

I'd really love to try and come up with some rationalization of Hot Tub Time Machine, some underlying (or even overlying) theme that connects the audience to the characters - that through reflection and redemption we can get beyond the various regrets that plague our lives...but I just can't. It's a movie with an era-warping Jacuzzi, for chrissakes, filled with shit, piss, cum, vomit, and any of the rest of Carlin's Seven Dirty Words not covered by that statement (including, most notably, a heavy focus on motherf*#king). In fact, now that I think about it, I might wonder if this entire film wasn't built upon those words and expanded as deemed necessary.

What's amazing is that despite the fact that the jokes seem to all be aiming low (like the crotch), Hot Tub ends up feeling pretty smart. Just about every touchstone of the 80s teen comedy is touched upon, and John Cusack's involvement gives it a meta-, almost Charlie Kauffman-like feel. Of course, it's nowhere near as philosophical as something the Adaptation scribe would have come up with, but it's not terribly far off, either.

And since I don't have much else to say about that, I'll take this space to explain a new wrinkle you'll see going forward with my ratings:

First off, the Dramamine scale is going bye-bye. I think it's kind of clever, but the fact is that due to Mrs. Fletch's inability to deal with shaky-cam and its cousins, we really do a good job avoiding the types of films that would employ it in theaters (looking at you, Green Zone).

In its place will be a second score from the Fletch Film Rating System.

I've spoken often about the roles of expectations as they pertain to our digestion of pop culture - over the years, I've come to think of them not as just a piece of the puzzle, but quite possibly the glue holding it all together (and other mixed metaphors). Moreover, since you're reading my review and my rating, my specific expectation/perception of a film prior to seeing it is highly relevant to the discussions at hand. So from now on, you'll get an "Expectation" rating and a "Reality" rating. I don't expect them (no pun intended) to offer any sort of deep insight, but just a glimpse into where my head was at on a particular film prior to seeing it. Here's the first:

Fletch's Film Rating:
"Darn tootin."
"Darn tootin."
Large Association of Movie Blogs

I can't imagine the horror that lovers of the 1981 original Clash of the Titans must have faced upon exiting the theater from the 2010 version. No, I've not seen the Hamlin-izes version, but my impression of it is that it's a camp classic, an overacted affair filled with big names and what can only be seen now as "lovingly bad" special effects. From the images I've seen, to say it's aged as poorly as the old Land of the Lost TV show seems a disservice to Sid and Marty Krofft. Nevertheless, people love it, and so I was prepared (on their behalf) to see a film in the remake that would make them throw their Twizzlers and Dr. Peppers at the screen - a destruction of their beloved film that tarnishes its memory. Worst case scenario was that Louis Leterrier's version would be *gulp* good.

Wrong. What they got instead was their worst nightmare. Clash 2010 is a completely middle-of-the-road movie - a charisma-free (thanks, Sam Worthington, though it's hardly all your fault), semi-exciting, mostly humorless adventure epic that's mostly unmemorable. The special effects are always "good" but never great. the story is compelling but never fully taken advantage of (Perseus' status as a demi-god is paid a lot of lip-service but is meaningless outside of it enabling him a few trinkets sprinkled down from On High). The Kraken is built up for 90 minutes only to be taken down in two. Even to a non-viewer of the original, I could see the checklist of required items being ticked off one-by-one.

The result is yes, a pointless cash grab, and for that it is offensive. But the film itself is just boring - a stock action picture that will go down in history with a ton of other films that mildly amused the masses but weren't loved by any. What fun is it to hate that?

Fletch's Film Rating:
"You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you."
Large Association of Movie Blogs

11 people have chosen wisely: on "Seriously Overdue Movie Reviews: Hot Tub Time Machine, Clash of the Titans"

smacdonn said...

On the subject of the original Clash of the Titans', as you put it, lovingly bad' effects, it's Ray Harryhausen's birthday today. And while stop motion animation often looks cheesy or dated in comparison to today's CGI special effects, Harryhausen was among the greatest special effects artists in Hollywood history.

Alex said...

I dug the meta-ness and 80's throwbacks in Hot Tub Time Machine as well, especially the offhand reference to Better Off Dead right after they go back in time ("Give me my two dollars!"). It was a weird but fairly enjoyable movie, mainly for the cast.

Also I like the new rating system! Expectations really do play a big role in how I feel about most movies and it's cool to see that worked into your reviews!

Fletch said...

smacdonn - As usual, you're a fountain of obscure knowledge, good sir. Happy birthday to Ray.

Alex - The thing about HTTM is that you really knew that everyone was in on the joke, something that can't quite be said for other movies that get lumped in with it (say, Snakes on a Plane or maybe Dude, Where's My Car?). It was nuts from start to finish, and I loved the way they finished it.

Thanks on the rating system. The interesting ones will be where there's a great disparity between expectation and reality, in either direction.

bd79 said...

Fletch, any guess off the top of your head which movies recently have been the biggest expectation\reality disparity to you, for either good or bad?

Thanks, I'll hang up and listen to the answer.

Fletch said...

Shit, you didn't give me a chance to say "g'head" like JT the Brick (that douchebag).

Anyway, excellent question, BD.

I can't think of any that would be like 5-rating jumps, but a couple do come to mind, one in either direction:

I expected MacGruber to be awful (we were in the mood for a stupid movie), but came away pretty happy with it.

I didn't have many expectations either way about City Island (meh?) but thought it was pretty damn good as well.

On the other hand, I thought 44 Inch Chest would be a solid partner to Sexy Beast and it sucked motherloving ass.

Anonymous said...

I thought HTT was pretty awesome except for the lame ending, it was just so unoriginal and cornily happy, also no mention of your boy John Cusack flashing back to the 80s, the time period where he won this websites of "Person you'd most want to bang???"

Was that guy they got to play the young Cusack as bangable in your opinion??


Fletch said...

KV - SPOILERS...I liked the ending - not because it was cornily happy and/or unoriginal, but because it was unique: in every other time travel movie (that ends happily like this one), the cast would end up happy despite not changing their futures. In this one, they say "fuck it" and change everyone's future for the better, and in some cases wildly so. It's like they said "hell, if we're gonna go with a happy ending, we might as well go with the mega-happy ending." So I like that they went all the way.

Young Cusack was extremely bangable.

Nick said...

Have yet to see HTTM...

But I do wanna comment on the new rating system. You totally ripped off Jason's format on his "bucket list" blog! I mean, seriously... what kind of sad, depraved soul would take a creative rating format from another blog and use it as their own...

Fletch said...

Believe it or not, I've actually never been to Jason's Bucket List site until just now (sorry, Jason - it's more like I wasn't even aware of its existence than any avoidance thing). So I was apparently stealing unbeknownst to even me.

Good point, though, about thieves. Damn, dirty apes.

Peter Eramo said...

Yeah, I must say that I was entertained by Hot Tub Time Machine. Especially being in my late 30's, the film worked for me on 2 levels, which was nice. Cusack is always funny. I just went with this one and enjoyed, even with the appearance of Chevy Chase...

Fletch said...

Peter - Thanks. Yea, I was surprised that at my showing, there were so many of "the kids" (college-aged) that seemed to be digging it; I was worried that much of it would be lost on them. Still, it ought to hold a special place for thirtysomethings.