This week, Cineast offers previews of the new movies Hot Tub Time Machine 2 and The DUFF. Watch the trailers and get the scoop.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2
When it’s 10 below and the cold winds blow, it’s nice to know that there’s a steaming hot bath of predictable but funny comedy to sink into out there. Hot Tub Time Machine 2, featuring the very funny trio of Craig Robinson as Nick, Rob Corddry as Lou, and Clark Duke as Jacob, might just make it worthwhile to venture out into the cold night air. Some years have passed since we last checked in on our crew of bubble-bathed dabblers in time travel, and they’ve been busy. With the benefit of hindsight, each has gone back into history for the purpose of taking credit for something extremely successful—Lou, for example, has used time travel to style himself the “inventor of the Internet,” while Nick has made a career of entering the hot tub time machine to go back and record songs that others have made into hits and pass them off as his own. Of course, such ill-gotten success always turns out to be a Devil’s bargain, with unforeseen consequences being the Devil’s payback. That’s what makes it fun.
Is it just my imagination, or is there a quiet renaissance underway in the realm of teen sex comedies? I’m not talking about the goofball variety that gets cheap laughs by enacting crude, unlikely or embarrassing situations (see the American Pie franchise). I’m talking about the kind that attempts to portray the circumstances of teenage or early-20s romance as it currently operates (in a middle-class, largely white, suburban setting, of course). These films seem to fly beneath the large screen radar and wind up on streaming services by the score—and some are quite fun, deserving of more attention. Films like What If, Two Night Stand, The First Time—all of these recent films, with varying degrees of success, try to update the hoary formulas of the teen sex comedy (Is he a prince or a villain? Is she a good girl or a slut? Will she or won’t she put out?), not to banish those formulas but to adapt the form to present-day realities. The DUFF clearly fits in this category. Mae Whitman stars as Bianca, who finds that she is considered a “DUFF” by her social circle (a DUFF, the film tells us, is a “Designated Ugly Fat Friend”). Bianca is used by her female friends as a foil to highlight their own better looks, and boys ignore her. While the demeaning, physical way in which girls continue to be viewed might dishearten some (and, for the record, Bianca as portrayed by Whitman is NOT fat), this film portrays what remains a cold, hard fact. Based on the book by novelist Kody Keplinger.