Hot Rod

"Very Good"

Hot Rod Review


If you're reading this review of Hot Rod, you are likely on the internet, which means you have probably seen previous work by filmmakers Andy Samberg (star), Jorma Taccone (co-star), and Akiva Schaffer (director), whose Saturday Night Live snippets have been passed around the web almost as much as quotes misattributed to George Carlin. And if you've read other reviews of Hot Rod anywhere, you've heard about how Samberg and company went from minor online sensation (as part of video-comedy troupe The Lonely Island) to SNL staff (Samberg performs, Taccone and Schaffer write) to SNL internet ambassadors (most famously for the rap video "Lazy Sunday") to, finally, a keen summer job translating their sketch-comedy sensibility to the big screen.

But the appeal of Hot Rod is simpler than viral internet paradigm shifts: it is a very silly movie with a nature equal parts good and strange. Samberg plays Rod, who we infer from other characters to be a twentysomething, but who based on demeanor, ambition, and Samberg's crooked, sometimes crazed smile may be as young as 12. Rod's goal of becoming a much-loved, professional, stand-alone stuntman is such a deliberate anachronism that it's almost completely original, if not for the faintly memorable existence of Evel Knieval -- an existence that gives Rod a lot of hope (his deceased father's profession is explained as more or less Knieval's understudy).

Rod lives at home with his mother (Sissy Spacek) and his hard-ass stepfather Frank (Ian McShane), with whom Rod has a standing weekly appointment to physically fight; he seems to have the vague idea that fame and fortune as a professional stuntman will coincide with his ability to best Frank and prove himself a man.

Accordingly, Rod spends his between-fight time training for and failing at a variety of small-scale stunts, such as jumping the local pool on a mini-motorbike, flanked by a crew: his younger half-brother Kevin (Taccone), and his friends Dave (Bill Hader) and Rico (Danny McBride). The girl next door, Denise (Isla Fisher), who seems to be living at home after college, eventually joins in, too. When Frank is in dire need of a heart transplant, though, Rod must step up his stuntwork, planning to jump 15 school busses to raise $50,000, save his stepfather, and, naturally, finally kick his ass.

I may be describing the film too much; half its fun comes from the odd, sketchy progression -- the way it pads what could easily be a 20-minute short into a feature film. But this padding is not accomplished via character development; the Hader and McBride characters, for example, aren't given much background. But both actors have an unforced, natural camaraderie with Samberg and Taccone, which allows the outlandishness -- broad slapstick, suiting-up montages -- to have root in some kind of reality. Bumbling as its members are, Team Rod represents a support system that makes the arrested adolescence a lot easier to take.

As has become custom in this sort of comedy, the main team has a lot of funny bit players backing them up: Will Arnett bites into the toolish romantic-rival role with characteristic relish, and Samberg's "Lazy Sunday" cohort Chris Parnell gets a few minutes to extol the virtues of AM radio. Schaffer still seems to be thinking in bits and riffs rather than full scenes; the upside is his lack of inhibition when it comes to ditching narrative for something bizarre and/or hilarious, like Parnell explaining an elaborately crass tattoo.

To bridge the gaps between these more original, tangential moments (or to provide more of them), the filmmakers take a lot of inspiration from other films, especially the time-warped, small-town world of Napoleon Dynamite. That film's mis en scene -- parking lots, back roads, home-made ramps, wolf-portrait clothing -- is all over Hot Rod, albeit with a somewhat fresher-scrubbed cast in the foreground. Dynamite's Tina Majorino, for example, looked like an actual awkward teenager and was all the more touching for it; Hot Rod's Fisher never looks less than adorable in her '70s fashions and occasional backpack, embodying a game fantasy woman for Rod's nebulous 12-to-30 demographic with more effect than I'd care to admit.

That same demo may also recognize debts to the occasional wild extremes of Will Ferrell's Anchorman and the deadpan '80s parody of Wet Hot American Summer. These aren't bad influences for a comedy, though, and Samberg makes such a convincing child-man (I mean it as a compliment that "child" should get first billing) that his absorption of the best recent comedies is actually pretty cute, like a talented kid paying tribute to his heroes. The movie may be a bizarre goof, but the effort -- second-hand material included -- is utterly sincere.

You guys ever see Jackass?



Hot Rod

Facts and Figures

Run time: 88 mins

In Theaters: Friday 3rd August 2007

Box Office USA: $13.9M

Box Office Worldwide: $13.9M

Budget: $25M

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Production compaines: Paramount Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 40%
Fresh: 42 Rotten: 63

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Akiva Schaffer

Producer: John Goldwyn,

Starring: as Rod Kimble, as Denise, as Dave, as Marie Powell, as Rico, as Kevin Powell, as Frank Powell, as Jonathan, as Barry Pasternack, as Homeless Dude, as Trailer Guy, Alana Husband as Waitress, Chester Tam as Richardson, Britt Irvin as Cathy, Brittany Tiplady as Maggie, Andrew Moxham as Sullivan, Alvin Sanders as Furious Boss, Terri O'Neill as Angry Mom, Paulo Ribeiro as EMT, Chris Eastman as EMT

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.