The Verdict on This Weekend's Movies: "Hot Tub Time Machine" and More

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  • Publish Date: March 25, 2010

Our weekly roundup offers a brief look at this week's new film releases. For a full selection of reviews for these and many more films, visit Metacritic Movies. [Updated 3/27 at 10:25a]

Gentlemen, start your hot tubs

While we wouldn't want to re-live the 1980s ourselves, there's no reason that watching other people do so can't be fun. Fortunately, Hot Tub Time Machine's future looks bright, thanks to surprisingly decent reviews. There's even a well-reviewed family movie this week -- another rarity in recent months. Here are the details about this week's new films:

This Week's Major Releases, Head to Head
Movie Release Rating Genre Metascore Critic Grades Users
Hot Tub Time Machine WIDE R Comedy 65 20,13,0 8.0
How to Train Your Dragon WIDE PG Family/Adventure 73 25,4,0 9.2
Chloe LIMITED R Thriller 48 9,15,4 n/a
Greenberg LIMITED R Comedy/Drama 76 31,4,0 7.6
Waking Sleeping Beauty LIMITED NR Documentary 69 10,5,0 n/a
Compare to the "best" wide releases from recent weeks:
Diary of a Wimpy Kid 3/19 PG Family/Comedy 55 12,11,2 8.8
Green Zone 3/12 R Action/Thriller 61 24,13,0 7.1
Alice in Wonderland 3/5 PG Fantasy 53 18,16,4 5.1

Hot Tub Time Machine 65

Image
Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) 65
John Cusack's Last 5 Films
2012 (2009) 49
War, Inc. (2008) 37
Grace Is Gone (2007) 65
1408 (2007) 64

A throwback to the comedies of the 1980s, this time-travel laugher (in which a group of friends are transported back to a ski resort in 1986) features genuine '80s stars in John Cusack, Chevy Chase, and Crispin Glover, as well as Rob Corddry, Clark Duke and Craig Robinson.

The good news is that the film appears to be good; the bad news is that it's not as good as you might have hoped.

What the critics like: John Cusack, for starters, although the entire cast is drawing praise from critics. Even when it gets too ridiculous or when the jokes fall flat, the film is brisk and entertaining. Anyone who grew up on '80s films will find a lot to enjoy.

What they don't like: Many critics wanted it to be funnier than it actually was. It's a bit too raunchy and needlessly offensive, and doesn't hold up to similar R-rated comedies like "The Hangover." The Village Voice finds the direction, editing and plot a bit too sloppy (though that doesn't prevent the film from being funny).

How to Train Your Dragon 73

Based on the children's book of the same name, this 3-D, computer-animated adventure from DreamWorks Animation was written and directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, who made Lilo & Stitch 73 for Disney. The story centers on a viking society where fighting dragons is a way of life, until one teenage boy learns to befriend, rather than destroy, the creatures. Don't expect an all-time classic, but it is the highest-scoring family film of the year so far.

What the critics like: Children should enjoy the story and get caught up in the film's emotion. The message at the heart of the film is refreshingly positive, and "Dragon" avoids the ruder humor present in other DreamWorks Animation efforts. Most, but not all, reviewers like the way the film looks, and are impressed by the 3-D elements.

What they don't like: Many critics feel that "Dragon" borrows too much from "Lilo & Stitch," and some also find the movie a bit bland, lacking excitement and action. The vocal cast -- which includes Jonah Hill, Craig Ferguson, and Kristin Wiig -- is wasted on a film that de-emphasizes comedy.

Chloe 48

Image
Chloe (2010) 48
Atom Egoyan's Last 5 Films
Adoration (2008) 64
Where the Truth Lies (2005) 47
Ararat (2002) 62
Felicia's Journey (1999) 72

One of director Atom Egoyan's more accessible works, this erotic thriller (a remake of the French film Nathalie 69) stars Julianne Moore as a doctor who tests her husband's fidelity by hiring a young woman (Amanda Seyfried) to seduce him. (Hint: she succeeds.) Liam Neeson also stars.

What the critics like: The acting is very strong -- so much so that the leads almost save the movie. Some critics find it to be a clever, stylish, well-shot thriller that is enhanced, not hindered, by its eroticism (which includes a much talked-about scene between Seyfried and Moore).

What they don't like: A lot of critics feel that the script is very weak and the film is pretentious. Some reviewers find it boring; others, cheesy; it's a lot more surface than substance. Many viewers will be disappointed in the ending. Fans of Egoyan's earlier, better films will also be disappointed.

Greenberg 76

Image
Greenberg 76
Fantastic Mr. Fox 83
Noah Baumbach's Last 5 Films *
Margot at the Wedding 66
The Squid and the Whale 82
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou 62

* As writer or co-writer

The latest dramedy from writer-director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale 82) stars Ben Stiller in low-key mode (to an extent) as a 40-something slacker at a crossroads in his life. After losing his job, he agrees to housesit for his younger brother, where he falls for his brother's personal assistant (Greta Gerwig). LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy provides the score. The film expands to multiple cities this weekend after premiering in Los Angeles and New York last week.

What the critics like: "Greenberg" is witty, intelligent, and sharply observational. Many critics, like the New Yorker's David Denby, admire the fact that the material could have gone wrong in so many ways (the title character is mean-spirited, self-absorbed, and fairly hard to like, for starters), yet Baumbach makes it work. Most reviewers are also heaping praise upon Stiller and Gerwig. "Greenberg" also works as a great L.A. movie, with the city itself playing a major role.

What they don't like: There's not much in the way of plot, and the film is probably not for everyone.

Waking Sleeping Beauty 69

This documentary uses interviews and home movies to examine the creative rebirth of Disney's animation unit in the mid-1980s, when a period of box office and critical flops was followed by one of the most successful decades in the studio's history.

What the critics like: For those viewers curious about behind-the-scenes intrigue, the film is both "surprisingly intimate" (The Onion A.V. Club) and "hard-hitting" (The Hollywood Reporter).

What they don't like: The topic is very "inside baseball" and may not be of interest to the general public.

Next week in Metacritic

Opening wide next Friday, April 2nd, are the fantasy remake Clash of the Titans and Tyler Perry's Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too?, directed by Tyler Perry. Also on Friday, the Susan Sarandon-Pierce Brosnan drama The Greatest opens in limited release, while the Miley Cyrus drama The Last Song opens on Wednesday, March 31st. Here are the trailers:

Full Movie Release Calendar

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Comments (1)

  • Mitch Sloan  

    I think your enjoyment of Hot Tub Time Machine goes up significantly if you're about 35 or older. I'd say optimal age is about 39. The credits sequence is probably the funniest thing since The Hangover's. Much better movie than I expected it to be, and absolutely worthy of its metascore - unless, again, you're a twenty-something who won't fully appreciate it.

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