Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Slime Machine

Okay, so one of the dangers of Netflix streaming movies is that you have no risk but your time when you decide to watch something. Before, when you put a disc in your queue you were at least committing to having a physical object in your house. If you couldn't choke it down, you put it in the red envelope and had to spend a few days waiting in shame for its replacement, preferably something of greater cultural value than "Dude, Where's My Car?"

With the streaming thing, the threshold for a queue add has been drastically reduced. Hey, I'll just watch it for a few minutes. If it's really that awful, I'll just turn it off and go on to the next thing. Instantly!

This is fine in theory, but when you have certain obsessive-compulsive tendencies it can be a trap. Some of us absolutely cannot watch a movie or TV show in which we have even the slightest interest if it has already begun. (Yes, just like Alvy Singer.) And we do not begin to watch or read something that we do not eventually finish. I once slogged through 600-odd painful pages of "The Alienist". Hey, maybe it'll get better. (It didn't.)

Which brings us to "Hot Tub Time Machine". (You can follow the link if you want a full synopsis. Not bothering here.)

I'm about the target demographic for this film. The soundtrack was the soundtrack of my teenage years. If nothing else, I figured I'd chuckle a few times and enjoy the soundtrack. Which I sorta did. Not just the obvious choices (Men Without Hats, Spandau Ballet, Serious Moonlight-era Bowie) but the few inspired oddities, both truly awesome (The Replacements!) and awesomely cheesy (Nu Shooz!).

It's a total guy movie, which is not really my thing. But I can enjoy it if it's funny enough. In that department, it's a coin toss. I'm not quite sure if I wasted an hour-forty or if the few chuckles and titties made it a better bet at the time than another episode of "Torchwood" (which is still there waiting patiently for me, thank goodness).

But what really concerns me here are the morals we're meant (or not) to take away from this cinematic enterprise. And at this point we'll give the obligatory HERE BE SPOILERS!

The film, to its credit, doesn't cast its main characters in a flattering light. We pity them but we don't really like them. But that's what made it harder for me to swallow the ending, which we'll get to in a second.

Early in the film, John Cusack laments that all they had in the 80s was "Reagan and AIDS", the two plagues that were at their grossest back then but continue to pollute our lives today. So one might reasonably expect that, if we were to deconstruct the thing, we might find at least a mild indictment of the values we had back then. The Gordon Gekko "greed is good" era was as slick, empty and one-dimensional as Oliver Stone's screenplays condemning it.

Well, here's what happens at the end. After spending most of the 80s flashback trying to do everything that they did the first time around in a perhaps-vain attempt to avoid the Butterfly Effect, they end by saying "fuck it" and doing whatever the heck they want. Rob Corddry's character even stays behind when the others return to the present in order to take advantage of his knowledge of the future.

I found this a bit depressing. Once the three other principals made their way back to 2010, things were quite different. For all of them. But not because, as in "A Christmas Carol" or even "Back to the Future", they did things better or were kinder people or worked harder as a result of reliving the past. They didn't have epiphanies. Their lives were better because they cheated. And the movie is okay with this. It actually celebrates it.

Rob Corddry is filthy stinking rich because he knew about Google and Twitter and Motley Crue before everyone else. Craig Robinson is well-off because he pre-empted his wife from cheating on him in the future and wowed an audience by teaching his band a Black Eyed Peas song from the future instead of lamely crooning "Careless Whisper", as he did the first time around. John Cusack meets a music journalist that he ends up with instead of brooding over the girl who stabbed him in the eye (and, as he learns, would have stabbed him in the eye either way).

To boil this down to one sentence, "Hot Tub Time Machine" teaches us that the road to happiness and wealth is insider trading. It isn't a repudiation of the 80s. It's a celebration of its worst aspects, which just happen to have exploded again in this decade. Rob Corddry's character is a dick at the beginning of the movie and he's a dick at the end. But now he's a rich dick. And he isn't rich because he earned it. We're supposed to feel good?

No. This left a very bad taste in my mouth. And it wasn't because of Salt-n-Pepa. It's a total glorification of corruption. And really, not funny enough to mask that fact. The characters in "The Producers" were much funnier and much more sympathetic. And they ended up in jail.

1 comment:

Kizz said...

I have that same this disorder which is why I've been careful to not even start this one. Thanks for reinforcing my decision. I didn't mind the Alienist. My 600 pages I'll never get back is Cider House Rules. If I ever meet Irving, in any incarnation I feel I have a free punch to the neck for slogging through that.

Torchwood I like.