The amusing, curiously lo-fi comedic diversion known as Hot Tub Time Machine revisits a moment in time not known for its significant cultural contributions (especially on a mainstream level). Who better, then, to appear in a movie that looks back with a nostalgic eye to the 1980s than Crispin Glover, one of the great, under-appreciated oddballs of that or any era?
Still best known for his breakthrough role as George McFly, father to Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly, in Back to the Future, Glover has been a part of the cultural landscape for more than 30 years, nearly all of which has been spent cultivating the actor/director/novelist’s eccentric whims. Glover — who was born to an actor father in New York City in 1964 — landed small roles on a variety of television shows (Happy Days, Hill Street Blues and Family Ties) before graduating from Beverly Hills High School in 1982. Determined to move past the TV fare of his youth, he made his big-screen debut with the teen comedy My Tutor (1983), which was followed by a bit part in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984). (If only the subtitled proved true.)
If the massive successful of Back to the Future (1985) introduced him to mainstream audiences, it was Glover’s performance as a tweaked-out murder witness in Tim Hunter’s River’s Edge (1986) (which, for my money, remains one of the best films — and film performances — of the 1980s) that forever cemented his status as a counterculture icon of sorts. The combination of the two roles — both of which effectively utilized his strange, hyper-neurotic delivery — marked the arrival of a guy who dared to be different.
That Glover has never found his way into movie roles as satisfying as that mid-’80s one-two is both unfortunate and expected — filmmakers likely had no earthly idea how to best use his unique talents. (Unlike ’80s era-mate and good friend Nic Cage, Glover’s grown even more differential in the ensuing years.) Then there are his own self-sabotaging eccentricities (remember when he was whisked off Late Night with David Letterman for nearly kicking the host in the face?) and his uncompromising, off-center creative outlook, which is best exemplified by this recent Glover quote: “There’s a healthiness to having something that some people are taken aback by, because what that means is that there’s a discussion going on. When there’s nothing that’s being taken aback, nobody's surprised, nobody's being tested or challenged, then there’s no learning process going on. And it makes for a stupefied culture, and I think that’s happening right now.”
Proof of Glover’s “stupefied” claim can be witnessed in the first two movies below.
CLASH OF THE TITANS — Once the Kraken is unleashed, Louis Leterrier’s 3-D retrofitted remake of the campy myth classic of the early 1980s, Clash of the Titans is supposed to scale the mystical heights of glory and make us believe that there is something out there that even the gods fear. No such fear is evoked. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated PG-13.) Grade: D-
THE LAST SONG — Dear John takes A Walk to Remember is the mash-up title that best defines this latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation supposedly written specifically for Miley Cyrus. I’m showing my age and intellectual snobbery by laughing at the notion that anyone writes anything specifically for Miley Cyrus, especially grown men. (Read full review here.) (Opened wide March 31.) — tts (Rated PG.) Grade: D
NORTH FACE — Writer/director Philipp Stolzl precariously filmed on the actual face of the Swiss massif, the Eiger North Face, to create a nail-biting Nazi-era historic drama so convincing that you'll get chilled to the bone like the mountain climbers on screen. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Cole Smithey (Not Rated.) Grade: A-