If there is one movie in the history of movies that I never thought would need a remake, it is BACK TO THE FUTURE. God, I love that trilogy. It is legendary and sheer cinematic perfection, from the story to the performances to the characters and continuity and quotable dialogue. It just stands to reason that a remake would be blasphemy and a slap in the face, not only to Robert Zemeckis, Michael J. Fox and everyone involved, but to those of us who have put the the movies on a pedestal for the past 25 years.
At least, that's what I thought. And then I saw HOT TUB TIME MACHINE.
Now, let me state right off the bat that HTTM does not exceed BTTF in any way. The adventures of Marty McFly will never be topped. But the adventures of four friends who travel back in time to the era in which Marty McFly lived before HE traveled back in time (whew) is a brilliant, hilarious, impeccable homage. As a remake, it succeeds in ways that I never would have thought possible. As its own movie, it is absolutely hilarious... not exactly in unexpected ways, since I pretty much knew that this movie would be awesome ever since I first saw the trailer... but it FAR exceeds my already-high expectations and has left me a giddy, gushing, bouncing-off-the-walls mess.
The story is simple. Back in the day, John Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson were best friends. But as the years rolled by, they remained friends but drifted apart on a fundamental level. After Cusack breaks up with his girlfriend, Robinson deals with his own messed up marriage and Corddry seemingly tries to kill himself, they reunite (along with Cusack's geeky nephew) at their favorite ski resort and try to relive their glory days. Unfortunately, the place has become a shithole and is more depressing than anything else. But hey, at least the hot tub, which had been broken when they arrived, appears to have been fixed... and is now emitting a strange unearthly glow... but fuck it, there's booze and drugs and a dancing bear and and and.....
Yeah, they go back in time. To 1986, when they were kids hanging out at that very ski resort. Naturally, hijinks ensue. My favorite part of the trailer is when they're trying to figure out what the hell happened and Craig Robinson says, "It must have been some kind of.... hot tub time machine," and then looks at the camera for a couple of beats. That pretty much sums up the tone and insanity of this movie. I knew it was going to be amazing and hilarious and utterly ridiculous... and I was right on levels that I didn't even fathom. On a purely surface level, it is a must-see.
But I was not aware of the whole BACK TO THE FUTURE aspect. I mean, obviously, there's the time travel thing (and really, is a time-traveling hot tub that much more insane than a time-traveling DeLorean?). But this is seriously a straight remake. I would love to create a side-by-side comparison chart and pick out all of the direct homages to Zemeckis' masterpiece -- seriously, at times, it is almost beat-for-beat, just updated for modern times -- but to do so would spoil the fun and that would be a crime. Suffice to say, it is brilliant and brilliantly done. It never once feels like a cheap rip-off -- if anything, when the BACK TO THE FUTURE connections occurred, no matter how blatant or subtle, I felt a surge of glee and reverence along with my gut laughter.
And it's not just BACK TO THE FUTURE. It's the best '80s tribute movie since THE WEDDING SINGER. The movie is loaded with nostalgia and tips of the cap to movies, TV and pop culture -- sometimes cheesy and over-the-top, but often subtle, in the background, or flat-out unexpected (great soundtrack, too). I particularly loved the ski patrol, the bad guys who bully Cusack & Co. and give them a run for their money. Not very subtle, granted... but it's a great tribute to '80s villainy, with a twist that keeps things fresh. (Keep your ears open, too, for one particular line of dialogue in the background of a pivotal scene involving these guys that literally had me roaring with '80s movie geekitude.)
The performances are great across the board. I fucking love John Cusack and he is the anchor here. I mean, here's a guy who was an icon in the '80s, and remains an icon to this day, starring in a movie in which he gets to do his thing in BOTH eras. He is the man. Craig Robinson continues his heralded streak of stealing every fucking scene he is in, regardless of what he does. I should turn on my webcam and record a video of myself right now, because I am seriously laughing out loud while thinking about some of his lines in this movie. Meanwhile, I could see this being a breakout role for Rob Corddry, in the same way that, say, HIGH FIDELITY was a breakout for Jack Black -- it's one of those loud, raucous, crazy funny performances that makes people stand up and take notice. (Of course, anyone worth their salt should already know that Corddry rules... but the rest of the world ain't so hip.) Clark Duke is also great as the Cusack's young iPhone-obsessed nephew who gets caught up in this madness and just wants to make sure that the time-space continuum doesn't get TOO messed up so he can, y'know, be born.
And then there's Crispin Glover. If Cusack is the anchor, Glover is the goddamn lynchpin and the surest sign that the filmmakers had McFly on the mind. Needless to say, he is awesome. (A couple of other great '80s icons make appearances, too. One of them is Chevy Chase, which is common knowledge... but the other... well, let's see if you can pick him out. Unspeakable genius.)
Furthermore, did I mention it's rated R? And a hard R, at that. So it's loaded with F-bombs and boobs and bodily fluids and raunchiness that knows no bounds. Good stuff.
Okay, okay, I will stop gushing now. Hell, the mere fact that I am blogging about this movie THE SAME NIGHT I saw it should be a sign of just how much I loved it. Can't remember the last time that happened. HOT TUB TIME MACHINE opens on March 26th. Get your advance tickets ASAP and prepare to have your minds blown. I can't wait to see it again!