What happened to John Cusack\'s leading man status?
My faith in John Cusack as the patron saint of smart, sensitive romantic comedy is sadly in crisis at the moment due to his turn in the ensemble comedy Hot Tub Time Machine, starring Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and newcomer Clark Duke.
The idea of revisiting teenage regret through time travel to the eighties isn\'t exactly a new concept - 17 Again and Suddenly 30 are notable recent examples. Hot Tub Time Machine adds an element of \'bromance\', jumping on the bandwagon of films like The Hangover, I Love You, Man, Pineapple Express, and Knocked Up.
These similarly themed comedies explore the strong bonds between groups of males experiencing arrested development. As a new subgenre of comedies they have been incredibly successful with audiences who have become attuned to the Judd Apatow school of comedy.
The problem with applying this formula to Hot Tub Time Machine is that Cusack arguably works best when he is given a strong female lead to bounce off, such as Minnie Driver in Grosse Pointe Blank. The refusal of the film to do anything but objectify the female characters - with the exception of the ever-reliable Lizzy Caplan from Mean Girls in an underdeveloped role - makes it difficult to really care about the group of self-centred friends at the heart of the film.
The film left a residue of disappointment, in contrast to the sweet sense of optimism felt after watching the trifecta of films Cusack made in the decade in which Hot Tub Time Machine is set: The Sure Thing, Better Off Dead, and Say Anything. It is hard not to compare his work in this film to the earlier roles that cemented his status as a go-to male lead with an affable and awkwardly romantic personality.
Although it is quite entertaining in parts, Hot Tub Time Machine is hard to take light-heartedly because of its apparent determination to gross out and offend the audience. It\'s a shame that the filmmakers felt they had to try so hard to seem edgy and compete with the successful Apatow formula. The film\'s absurd series of events, scatological humour and misogynistic themes ultimately drown the comedic potential of the central premise and the talent of the cast.