Hot Tub Time Machine, Nitpicking, and The Ol' 5-Minute Man Joke

Because I generally like John Cusack, Rob Corddry, and Craig Robinson, because I love an f'd-up (that's right keeping it clean for the kids) comedy, and because I kinda lust after the idea of a hot tub time machine, I went to see...Hot Tub Time Machine.  Highly enjoyable. I recommend it. However, I nitpick and criticize because I love. If we don't actively critique the social information our pop-culture showers on us, then we become passive sponges that are doomed to understand ourselves, our society, and our fellow humans largely though depictions created not from reality but from profit seeking industries. They simply don't put much thought into how the depictions they create affect us as long as it created revenue for them - so we have to consider how it affects us. I am going to discuss this movie in 3 parts
1) a critique focusing mostly on my disdain for worthless, dull romantic-interest tack-ons 
2) Nitpicky, but not necessarily unimportant element of the movie that annoyed my sensibilities. 
3) As always - a discussion of the blunt and/or insinuated depiction of female sexual functioning.

1) This is first and foremost a comedy, so John Cusack romantic story line should have actually been funny. Yet at best it is mildly amusing. Generally, I believe comedies are always messing things up by including a romantic storyline that exists solely to be a romantic storyline. They are rarely funny or intriguing, and almost always the most boring part of an otherwise funny movie. Sometimes these lame love interests take up so much of the movie that I come to hate that movie for containing such poor choices. John Cusack's love story didn't take up that much time, so I wasn't that bothered by it.  However, I see no valid reason why it couldn't have been written to keep a comic pace somewhere near the rest of the movie.

What I find particularly annoying about these silly story lines is that often they contain the only real female lead, and she's boring as hell - the real kill-joy of the movie. Boys are fun, and girls make boys less fun. I know there are exceptions to this rule, but if you start looking at the bulk of comedy movies out there, that's the info we so often get. Think of some hilarious comedies that have only guys as comedic leads. Now think of some hilarious comedies that have only women as comedic leads. There's not an equal amount to say the least. Women can be funny, I assure you, and I would love to see more movies where they are able to be the comedic bullet trains, and maybe just for fun, some naggy man could be the kill-joy this time.

2) Craig Robinson, for my comedic taste, was the stand-out in this movie, but, like I said, I nitpick because I love. Besides, it's really the writing I have a problem with. Craig Robinson's character is supposed to have a controlling wife that has completely emasculated him. The synopsis on the movie website says this and his buddies tell him as much in the movie. The only time we see his wife, she’s at the hospital with her husband after his screw-up friend tried to commit suicide. She seems quite nice. We don’t even hear about any protest from her when he decides to go on an impromptu weekend vacation with his buddies. All we know about their relationship is:

A. that she cheated on him  
B. They have a hyphenated last name 
C. He quit his music career to marry her –or so he says.

The cheating is its own storyline; responsible for a few comedic moments including a ranting inappropriate phone call made to the 9 year-old wife in 1986 that serves to prevent the cheating in the future. It doesn’t ever relate itself directly to her controlling nature. On the other hand, points B and C do directly relate to our understanding of this control issue.

The movie would have us believe that Robinson become a huge wuss, giving up his name and music career for this crazy woman. His friends tease him about the hyphenated name and act as if it is an obvious show of his cowardice towards her, and they discuss his life as if he ruined it by leaving music for her. First off, people have hyphenated names. This might have been a novel concept in the 80's, but come on -it's not that big a deal anymore.  Robinson didn't even give up his own name, he just took an extra one, and if taking your spouse's name is such a pathetic thing to do, then I and many other women should just kill ourselves now, but I guess it's just accepted that women are pathetic; it’s normal and obvious. I know, I know, it's a joke. The insinuations it makes isn't cute though, and besides, it's too old of a joke to be that funny. The premise is a bunch of bullshit, and the movie makers could have created any number of reasons to convince us this guy’s wife is a controlling psycho. But no, they chose to specifically point out that taking a spouse’s name is the epitome of lame (for men of course, women are obviously lame to begin with).

Oh – wait, and did I forget to note that he actually sucks as a musician, and would have gone nowhere with or without the wife. The depiction of his 1986 gig is horrendously bad. On his 2nd chance at the gig, he steals a Black-Eyed Peas song from 20 years in the future to wow the audience. This and not talent, makes him a music mogul in his new life.

So to recap what we actually know…in1986, he was a talentless musician, and he gave up this go-nowhere pursuit when he got married. At the time of marriage, he and his wife combined their last names. He now has a pathetic job (I forgot to mention, he pulls poop out of dogs' butts at a fancy dog spa - there is no specific mention as to how this related to his controlling wife). She is by his side when his friend is in the hospital and doesn’t seem to be bothered when he takes off for a ski resort the very next day. What a psycho control freak he’s married to!!! No really, that’s about as valid as that storyline is. Okay she cheated, but that doesn’t make her a control freak. The movie pulls the big wool over our eyes during the awesome re-do life scene when it takes his music mogul success plus the fact that his wife took his name and somehow ties it to a new found control over his wife and thus his life. So in the end, bitchy controlling wives get theirs (I guess?). Men who gave up on their youthful music aspirations and are now married can blame their wives for their lack of musical success. And, of course, people who get married but forget how important it is that the woman trade her name for his, well those dummies can finally see what a mess they’ve made of their lives.

3) Not much is shown of female sexual functioning, except in one scene. Cusack’s dumb party-gal girlfriend tells him their sex was hot last night. She says earnestly that she thinks she came – probably, and that he was really good...he lasted a whole 10 minutes. A simple statement, meant for comedy, but that’s just the kind of confusing and common crap that makes Science Sex and the Ladies necessary. Two pieces of information we can assume from that scene are as follows: She doesn’t know whether she came, but probably didn’t. He comes too quick and can’t get a woman off.

It's obvious her character is supposed to be a dumb, drunk slut, and Cusack’s character would have been young and immature at the time of this encounter. Not knowing whether you come or not is associated with stupidity, and lack of staying power / orgasm giving power is associated with youth and immaturity in men. I think those are pretty common stereotypes. The problem here is that plenty of smart mature women are confused about their own ability to orgasm, and plenty of old, experienced, mature, married, educated men, are greatly confused about "giving" a female orgasm.

Well, for starters, men don’t give women orgasms any more than women give men orgasms, and both have the natural capacity to orgasm quickly and reliably. Men have a lot of societal cues that help them understand how to orgasm and that make it obvious which steps to take in a partnered sexual situation to get to an orgasm. Women have just the opposite; societal cues that head them in the wrong direction (vaginal instead of clitoral) and give incorrect clues about which actions in a partnered sexual situation would lead to orgasm.

This movie gives the impression that if the dumb slut were just smarter and young Cusack could last longer, she may actually have an orgasm. However, the reality is that he could pound in her for an hour and it would be about as productive at producing orgasms as pounding her for 5 minutes. These few lines, like so many other lines in so many other movies, casually perpetuate misinformation: staying power=orgasm, female orgasm is directly related to intercourse, women’s orgasms are wishy-washy and a little mysterious. Plus it continues the insidious lie that only stupid women are uncertain about orgasm, when in reality most women are – because with all the misinformation out there, how could we not be.


  1. love your blog...hated the movie though.

  2. Sorry, I just saw this comment.I don't know how it slipped past me because I am insanely excited about comments. Thanks for blog love! I can understand why you hated the movie though - I mean it ain't exactly grade a film making.:)