Cusack takes a dip in 'post-modern' raunch
By BILL GOODYKOONTZ
Gannett Chief Film Critic
The star of several '80s comedies, John Cusack is back for more.
In "Hot Tub Time Machine," Cusack, Rob Cord-dry, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke travel back in time (by way of the title device) to relive a momentous weekend. It's silly, it's raunchy and it actually has some heart.
Cusack is also one of the film's producers. He and Grace Loh, his production partner in New Crime Productions, spoke recently about "Hot Tub."
Question: With a name like "Hot Tub Time Machine," you have a lot to live up to.
Cusack: I sort of thought it was the other way around. If you have a title like "Hot Tub Time Machine," that's a stupid title. Maybe people are going to think the people who made it have lost their mind completely. When they go in and see it, they're going to be so pleasantly surprised (laughs).
It's pretty hard for people to say "Hot Tub Time Machine" does not live up to the artistic expectations we had (laughs.) You just don't have those conversations. That's sort of the trick of it. That's kind of the inside joke.
Q: Why did you guys decide to produce this movie?
Cusack: Grace and I thought this would be very smart, post-modern and very dumb. Post-modern in the way that you have a movie within a movie. You have actors who were in these '80s movies going back to movies that, it's almost like Crispin (Glover) and I and Chevy (Chase) kind of being trapped into a version of film youth. We thought that mixture could be a pretty fun ride for a comedy if you get it right.
Q: Corddry's character is different for this kind of movie. He's seriously damaged.
Cusack: When we did "High Fidelity," we thought, boy, this role and this actor, this is going to be a breakout thing for Jack Black. We had a similar thing, the combination of this role and this actor, this is a pretty big deal and you know, Clark and Craig as well. I just think these three guys are major-league talent.
Q: Yes, but Corddry, like you say, has the most interesting performance.
Cusack: I did think that this conception of Lou (Corddry's character), this kind of pure id running on the flames of his past, literally running on fumes starting off with the suicide (attempt) and trying to get back to the past, I thought this was a real breakout thing for Rob Corddry, who I thought was so funny for so long but I felt had never really gotten that showy role.
Loh: He's always been the best friend.
Cusack: He sort of does his comic duties, but this is one where he really gets to shine, and it becomes about him in a big way.
Q: A lot of the '80s comedies have held up better than you think. Is that because the stories are better than they were originally given credit for?
Cusack: I think so. I can't really comment on my own things, but I think pretty much people recognize that "Say Anything" is a really good film.
But they still have a fondness for the John Hughes movies, they still have a fondness for the movies I did with director Steve Holland. People really liked "Better Off Dead" — they come up to me all the time and say, "I love that movie."
Loh: Or, "I want my two dollars." I think they're better stories than they seem.
Cusack: In the case of "Better Off Dead," when I read it as a teenager, what I saw was this is a guy who was doing surrealism. He's doing black comedy but he's also doing surrealism. It wasn't bound by any naturalistic convention that "The Sure Thing" or John Hughes movies were. These were these characters in college and high school and they're walking about the planet, and, you know, the laws of gravity don't apply I thought that was pretty cool.
Q: It's a guy's movie. How important was it to give women a fair shake? Some of the real '80s comedies didn't.
Loh: I think something that Johnny and I worked really hard on with this film is just to really develop the story as much as possible, and the characters and the relationships. We really tried to keep the women from being the stereotypical women. I think they all are so different and unique and have integral roles in these guys' journeys. I think it's story and character. I think that balances a lot of the raunchiness. Of course, we are talking about a hot tub time machine.
Cusack: When you make a movie called "Hot Tub Time Machine," you automatically get a free pass from being politically correct.