Monday, March 2, 2009

The Hot Tub Time Machine

Genre: Comedy...sort of
Synopsis: A bachelor party goes awry when a hot tub transfers its occupants back to 1987.
About: I guess this is a project that's been lingering in Hollywood for awhile. John Cusack's recent involvement has apparently turned it into a Go picture.
Writer: Josh Heald

This one's been getting a lot of airplay since John Cusack announced his attachment to the project and AintitCool ran an article about it. I have to say, from the title alone I was very excited. It sounded like an updated version of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. But unfortunately, it doesn't take full advantage of its time traveling premise, and focuses more on the goof-off antics of its four main characters. I smiled the whole way through "Hot Tub" but I never laughed (actually that's not true - I laughed at the very last line). For that reason, I can't whole-heartedly endorse the script.

Hot Tub follows Adam, our "soon to be married" bachelor, as he journeys up to a ski resort with four friends for his bachelor party. With him are his best friend Nick, his newly homeless friend Lou, and his estranged younger brother Jacob. The four find themselves drinking and partying in a hot tub, when they are inexplicably transported back to the year 1987. See this is where I had a bit of an issue with Hot Tub. The script stays in 1987 for the duration of the story. When I saw the title, "The Hot Tub Time Machine", I assumed we'd be traveling all over the place. The fact that we'd be staying exclusively in 1987 was a little disappointing.

Anyway, the characters kind of stumble around for 60 pages, getting into trouble, meeting new people, and getting used to the year. Some enjoy being in the year 1987 (Lou), some don't (Adam). There's no real story to speak of - except for Adam's vague desire to get back to his fiance. Which leaves the script completely dependent on its comedic situations. It then becomes a taste thing (do you think it's funny or not), and if you don't, well then there's no real reason to keep reading. Had the story and Adam's determination to return been stronger, the reader would've easily stayed along for the ride, laughs or not.

What I really liked about the script, however, had everything to do with Cusack's involvement. If you don't know, Better Off Dead is one of my favorite movies ever and holds a very strong place in my teenage heart. In that movie Cusack famously squares off against the ski team's captain who stole his girlfriend. In Hot Tub, Cusack's character encounters none other than an asshole ski instructor who happens to be dating his childhood crush. If I were in charge of this movie, I would be all over this. Echoing as many scenes from Better Off Dead as possible. These moments were when I was the most into Hot Tub Time Machine (I have a feeling it's why Cusack got involved in the first place). Is Ricky still acting?

I think the script is good. No better, no worse. Just an enjoyable read. If this indeed goes into production, there are some opportunities to make it great. But the first thing I would do is improve Adam's connection with his fiance early on and make his desire to get back to her more obvious. If we don't feel their incomparable love, then Hot Tub Time Machine doesn't work.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Hot Tub Time Machine: I'm telling you. Don't underestimate the need to sell your main character's motivation in a comedy. In order for comedy to work, there must be truth in your characters' desire. Taking an extra scene or two early on to solidify that dramatic element, makes every bit of comedy that follows that much funnier.

note: If you want to read a much better script about bachelor parties, read "The Hangover," which is coming out this summer.