So one of the movies I missed this year was Hot Tub Time Machine: a movie that tries too hard, but does accomplish one thing that is remarkable: the plot of the movie accurate depicts the experience watching the movie itself. In it, three middle-aged men travel back in time to 1986 and attempt to relive what they imagine to be their glory days, but realize they weren’t as great as they remember.
First, it’s a pretty terrible viewing experience. It’s not terribly funny, and feels like it is trying to emulate The Hangover and failing miserably. The writing here is pretty terrible, and it manages even to sap the funny from Craig Robinson, who was the best part of Zack & Miri Make a Porno and nearly had to save Couples Retreat. I do not recommend watching this film, even if you the 80’s as much as I do.
HTTM is also part of an 80’s revival that hasn’t been really successful or needed. We have new film versions of the A-Team, Clash of the Titans, The Karate Kid, as well as parodies and callbacks like HTTM, MacGruber, Cop Out, and The Other Guys. Not to mention whatever the hell The Expendables is supposed to be. And that is all in the past eight months! Revisiting the 80’s has been going on a lot lately. And we’re even getting a new Tron for Christmas!
But why? I’m not going to try and psychoanalyze the reasons for the feelings of mass nostalgia, but more “Why now?” Why are we suddenly witnessing a plethora of 80’s revivals (and it’s not just film, but I will only concentrate on film as this is a film blog)? I think the answer lies in the upbringing of people in my generation. I was born in 1986 (coincidentally the year the characters of HTTM travel back to) and I was raised on the 80’s. My favorite movies were Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, all of the 80’s, even though it probably wasn’t until the early 90’s that I saw them for the first time. This is because my generation had an opportunity unavailable to those before us: VHS and cable. These two technologies allowed us to experience films released before we were born, enjoyed by our young parents and older siblings.
This is important. Previously, to see Star Wars, you had to see it in the theater or wait for network TV to play it as the 10 o’clock Sunday movie. With VHS, you could watch it whenever you wanted. I also knew a lot of kids who were lucky enough to be raised by HBO, so they watched Teen Witch and Little Monsters while I was watching Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers. If it weren’t for these kids, I might not even know about these movies. VHS and cable gives properties a much longer shelf life now than previously. Couple this with my generation now having disposable income and it means I will probably want to (and be able to) buy a Tron light cycle for myself this Christmas, and put it between the Indiana Jones Lego sets and 18 inch Stay Puft Marshmallow man I have on my bookcase.
But I’m still not going o see the Smurfs movie. Yikes.