What’s happened to John Cusack? I haven’t seen his disaster movie 2012, but the impression I receive is that it’s cataclysmic in more ways than one.
I have seen his latest, however – Hot Tub Time Machine – and it’s not good. Granted, it’s not really my bag – I’m the only person I know who didn’t enjoy last year’s lads-‘n’-shenanigans romp The Hangover – but I don’t think anyone’s going to love this; it’s strangely miserable and joke-light. Plus Cusack just looks sad. His character is supposed to of course, but he doesn’t look sad like he did in High Fidelity, he looks sad like Hugh Grant did in Did You Hear About The Morgans.
Did you hear about Did You Hear About The Morgans? I did more than hear about it, I saw it – but that’s another story.
Like Hugh in that, John looks uncomfortable, almost ashamed. I think they’re both victims of the ageism and sexism of Hollywood; what use are money, charm and the ability to pick and choose projects if you’re not allowed to grow old properly? It must be so depressing to have hair that’s pretending to be from the past, and to have to get romantic with women who could easily be your daughter – see also Jim Carrey in Yes Man. I know that in this film the hot tub is a time machine, but the whole man-woman generational arrangement is pretty confusing, and, well, grubby.
So why did this once unassailably cool star get involved – very involved, as producer – with the tub? I have a theory: I think Hot Tub Time Machine is a changed-beyond-all-recognition remake of John Cusack’s finest moment, Grosse Pointe Blank. And if you think ‘changed-beyond-all-recognition’ defeats the object of the analogy, I offer in my defence Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans, which Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian excellently described as being like Abel Ferrara’s original Bad Lieutenant ‘off crack’.
So go with me on this. All the details are there, they just pushed them into new and weaker places; Grosse Pointe Blank revolves around an eighties-themed reunion weekend. It’s a natural, crass step up from that to Hot Tub’s trip to the actual eighties. And where the central character of Grosse Pointe Blank is a nihilist assassin, with all the moral complexity that suggests, Hot Tub Time Machine simply has Cusack as a guy who’s a bit of a bastard. Much simpler. Where Grosse Pointe Blank had you thinking ‘oh my god, that’s the best thing Dan Aykroyd’s done in years, if ever, Hot Tub Time Machine makes you think ‘what the hell? That’s the first thing Chevy Chase has done in years – what’s he talking about? What does he look like??’
That’s not all – Hot Tub Time Machine may not have top-notch supporting from the ever-brilliant Jeremy Piven, but it has got some baldy bloke who swears a lot. And where Grosse Pointe Blank had one of the wittiest, sharpest, scripts ever, Hot Tub Time Machine has shots of poo, vomit and sperm.
Alright, the films are nothing like each other, but looking at them this way hurts, doesn’t it? Are you listening John? If you’re going to produce and star, do us a favour and watch Grosse Pointe Blank again – and High Fidelity while you’re at it. They’re films about men and their weaknesses, and they aren’t ashamed of good solid cheap laughs, but when it comes down to it they’re intelligent, literate films for grown-ups. Knock us up another one of those, and run it past your sister; if Joan wants a cameo, you’re doing something right.