Hot Tub Time Machine, Steve Pink, 99 mins, (15)<br/>A Nightmare on Elm Street, Samuel Bayer, 102 mins, (18)<br/>The Back-Up Plan, Alan Poul, 103 mins, (12A)

Roll out the good ol' days and the next filthy joke &ndash; it'll wash off
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

You might get the feeling, watching Hot Tub Time Machine, that the writers put more thought into the title than the film itself.

John Cusack, Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry star as three former schoolfriends all suffering some kind of mid-life crisis. Cusack's latest girlfriend has just left him, Robinson pines for his stint as a funk singer, and Corddry is divorced, in debt, alcoholic and bald.

To cheer themselves up, they drive to the ski resort where they spent their wildest weekends as teenagers, bringing along Cusack's slacker nephew, Clark Duke, for no particular reason other than to broaden the audience demographic. And then, of course, a malfunctioning whirlpool bath zaps them back to 1986. We still see the actors as they are in 2010, but everyone in the film sees them as their younger, less bald selves, allowing them to relive their glory days. What Duke's character is doing there, considering he hadn't been born in 1986, is just one aspect of the story that you're not meant to ponder. Likewise, the film doesn't explain how a hot tub can also be a Tardis, and aside from a smirk or two about Michael Jackson and brick-sized mobile phones, it doesn't say much about the Eighties, either.

Indeed, whenever the film is on the verge of saying anything, it's swiftly undercut by vomiting, a spot of sex or a punch in the face. Luckily, most viewers will be laughing too heartily to care. As well as being surprisingly rude for a film with a 15 certificate, Hot Tub Time Machine bubbles with so many fast, explosive ad libs that it's much funnier than The Hangover, the last hit comedy to argue that male bonding is best achieved via drugs, alcohol and accidental violence. There is some sweetness to the characters, and sadness to their stalled lives, but never at the expense of the next filthy joke.

The Eighties revival continues with A Nightmare on Elm Street, in which Jackie Earle Haley dons the stripy jumper and the knife-fingered glove of Freddy Krueger, and haunts some personality-free schoolkids played by actors in their mid-twenties.

The film comes from Platinum Dunes, the same company that recently updated Friday The 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Amity-ville Horror – and, true to form, it's the cinematic equivalent of an X-Factor winner's debut single: a glossy, reverential cover version that has no hope of replacing the original in the audience's hearts.

That said, Nightmare ... is a cut above Platinum Dunes's other releases. But it has none of the strangeness of an actual nightmare and, like so many current horror films, it opts for sudden loud noises on the soundtrack in lieu of legitimate spookiness. Maybe it would have been more frightening if the characters didn't live in such spotless, expensively furnished show homes. Rather than trying to scare us to death, it's selling us a lifestyle as aggressively as any romantic comedy.

In the first half of the Noughties, Jennifer Lopez starred in an astonishing run of terrible films, before taking a well-earned break to get married and have children. The Back-Up Plan (pictured right) is her return to the big screen, and I'm pleased to report that it's as if she's never been away: her new film is every bit as charmless as Monster-In-Law, The Wedding Planner and the rest.

The artist formerly known as J-Lo stars as a pet-shop owner who wants to have a baby but can't find Mr Right. She's artificially inseminated, only to meet a tall, dark and handsome goat farmer (Alex O'Loughlin) a few minutes later when they both jump into the same cab at the same moment. Can their relationship prosper when she's pregnant with a stranger's child? More pertinently, can their relationship prosper when they're both so cantankerous and hysterical?

If I tell you that Lopez doesn't just have a dog, but a dog that scoots itself around on a trolley, you'll appreciate that The Back-Up Plan – essentially a lobotomised remake of Knocked Up – is set in the capital of Rom-Com Land, many days' journey from its border with Reality. It's a land where dinner dates take place in public parks festooned with Chinese lanterns; a land where, whenever one person is about to make an important confession, another person says: "Hold that thought!" Stay away.

Next Week:

Nicholas Barber sees American Bill Hicks, a documentary from over there about the comedian who was loved over here

Also Showing: 09/05/2010

A Room and a Half (130 mins, 12A)

Not your average biopic, Andrey Khrzhanovsky's A Room and a Half mixes dramatised scenes with voice-over, documentary footage and animated sequences, as Josef Brodsky, the Nobel-winning poet, looks back on his boyhood in St Petersburg and his exile in New York. It's a wistful yet cheerful stroll down memory lane, but Brodsky's published writing is consigned to the background, some way behind his love of cats, so the film never gets to the nub of what made him so special.

Furry Vengeance (91 mins, PG)

A paunchy Brendan Fraser is supervising a housing development in a forest when he's harassed by some poorly animated CGI animals. I don't know how many times you can bear to see Fraser splashed with coffee, water and whatever it is that skunks spray from their rear ends, but you'll see it several times more if you subject yourself to this.

Psych 9 (97 mins, 15)

Dreary, sluggish and largely incomprehensible horror film set in a decommissioned hospital, where an annoying young filing clerk is menaced by ghostly clichés. It should have gone straight to DVD, or straight to the bin.

Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (90 mins, PG)

Martin Scorsese leads the tributes to the great British cinematographer of Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes and many others, who died last year.

One Night in Turin (97 mins, 15)

Timely documentary about England's 1990 World Cup campaign. Gary Oldman is the partisan narrator.