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Awesome: 18.18%
Worth A Look52.27%
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4 reviews, 20 user ratings

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Hot Rod
[AllPosters.com] Buy posters from this movie
by Peter Sobczynski

"a.k.a. "D--- On A Moped"
2 stars

Over the last couple of years, Andy Samberg has become one of the better-known cast members of the current incarnation of “Saturday Night Live” thanks to a series of digital shorts that he and a couple of colleagues, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, have produced–the most famous of the bunch being the much-copied “Lazy Sunday” (the one in which he and Chris Parnell offered up a rap on the joys of buying cupcakes and catching “The Chronicles of Narnia”), the equally infamous “D— In A Box” (where he and Justin Timberlake crooned about presenting their ladies with that cherished gift mentioned in the title) and one in which the seemingly sweet-natured Natalie Portman offered up a hard-core take on her “real life.” These shorts made such an impact because they were fresh, they were very funny (especially the Portman one) and, most importantly, because they were short enough so that the films, which were essentially one-joke affairs, didn’t have a chance to wear out their welcomes. The problem with “Hot Rod,” Samberg’s first stab at big-screen stardom, is that he has attempted to take another one-joke premise–the kind that might have worked as one of those digital shorts–and stretch it out to feature length. Needless to say, it doesn’t work and the result is a weirdly dispiriting comedy in which the occasional flashes of inspiration are overwhelmed by a lot of aimless noodling around and increasingly tedious pratfalls in lieu of genuine wit or cleverness.

Samberg stars as Rod Kimble, an amiable young dope who dreams of being a stuntman in order to honor the memory of his late father, a former associate of Evel Knievel. Rod has energy and ambition and even a support team of buddies (Jorma Taccone, Bill Hader and Danny McBride) but from the first time we see him attempting to leap a mail truck on his pathetic little moped, it is clearly obvious that Rod has absolutely no aptitude for pulling off even the most rudimentary stunts–he is the kind of guy who is so uncoordinated that just standing on his own two feet appears to be a nearly insurmountable challenge. Since neither his friends nor his incredibly understanding mother (Sissy Spacek. . .yes, Sissy Spacek) have the heart to tell Rod that stunt work may not be his forte, that task falls to hated stepfather Frank (Ian McShane), a macho man of the world who has made it clear that he will never respect Rod as a man until he can best him in one of the wackily brutal fights that they engage in down in the basement.

A crisis emerges–it transpires that Frank has a bad heart and unless $50,000 can be raised for an operation, he is a goner. For Rod, this will not stand–he can’t let Frank die before beating him in a fight and gaining his respect–and so he goes off to his “quiet place” to think and where he is once again felled by those wildly complex rules of gravity. At the same time, he hits upon a foolproof idea–he will jump 15 school buses in a charity event to raise the money for the operation so that Frank can live to fight him another day. To raise the money in order to stage the jump, Rod embarks on a series of incompetently-staged stunts (including a human torch gig at a child’s birthday party that goes spectacularly wrong) while attempting to train for the big day and in his free time, he indulges in an equally painful flirtation with Denise (Isla Fisher), the hottie-next-door who unaccountably still finds him a worthwhile catch even after demonstrating his inability to hold his breath underwater for more than 40 seconds.

With its combination of painful-looking stunts and a storyline involving a socially-maladjusted misfit trying to triumph over adversity–mostly of his own making–“Hot Rod” suggests what “Napoleon Dynamite” might have looked like under the direction of Hal Needham. That may sound conceptually amusing in theory but in practice, the results pancake harder that Rod does after each of his misfired stunts. The sequences in which Rod’s ill-advised stabs at stuntwork result in him being bashed, burned, blown up, dragged through the street and nearly drowned might be mildly amusing when seen in two-minute chunks on YouTube but seeing them running one after another for nearly 90 minutes gets really monotonous after a while. Then again, maybe the filmmakers were working under the impression that if they made the character of Rod so unappealing that viewers wouldn’t mind seeing him getting smacked around in virtually every scene. This character is a dolt who winds up getting pounded into the ground not because of a combination of bad luck and his inability to judge his own abilities and shortcomings (which might have been somewhat funny), but because he is an idiot. Even this might have been made somewhat entertaining if he had been made into an endearing idiot, someone along the lines of Inspector Clouseau, but he is more along the lines of the kind of duh-duh idiot that would inspire you to change lanes if you got stuck behind him in the checkout lane of the local supermarket. Samberg doesn’t help matters much by portraying him in such a grindingly one-note manner that confuses “obnoxious” with “endearing” in a way that almost makes you yearn for the relatively restrained performances that Adam Sandler’s early movie roles.

The hell of it is that there are a lot of funny and talented people in “Hot Rod” but they are all forced to take a backseat to Samberg’s shenanigans. Bill Hader, who is one of Samberg’s “SNL” castmates, can be hilarious when he is given decent material to work with (as you will discover in a couple of weeks when “Superbad” comes out) but you wouldn’t know it to judge from the colorless scraps he is given here as Rod’s best pal. Likewise, Isla Fisher and Michael Arnett (who pops up as her rotter boyfriend) have also shown a flair for scene-stealing comedy turns over in recent years (she as the psycho gal who pursued Vince Vaughn in “Wedding Crashers” and he as the craven Gob Bluth in “Arrested Development” and as one of the bad guys in “Blades of Glory”) but they are never given any real opportunity to show off their comedic chops (although Fisher gets arguably the biggest laugh with her response to a question speculating as to what would win in a hypothetical fight involving two particular food item). The presence of the great Sissy Spacek in the cast is utterly inexplicable–the film doesn’t even have the wit to have her cap off her speech warning Rod not to go through with his stunt by saying “They’re all going to laugh at you!”–and as for Ian McShane, his ultra-tough Frank is the closest thing to a genuinely funny character in the film but I suspect that when he one day looks back at the year 2007, he will most likely consider the publication of Sylvia Kristel’s autobiography to be only the second-most embarrassing thing to happen to him.

I am perfectly willing to admit that there are a few amusing moments scattered throughout “Hot Rod”–I especially liked Rod’s visit to his “quiet place” and a bit in which a local media mini-mogul (Chris Parnell) buys the exclusive broadcast rights to the big jump, even though his medium of choice is one uniquely unsuited to convey the majesty of a 15-bus jump. Heck, I could even see myself laughing at one of the absurd stunt attempts if I stumbled upon a clip from it on television sometime. However, what can come across as amusing in short, contained bursts can get mighty tiresome after a while–there is a reason why the Three Stooges spent the vast majority of their careers doing two-reelers instead of feature films–and long before “Hot Rod” came to its conclusion, I found myself wishing that I could bring in my stunt critic to sit through the rest of it for me.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15573&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/03/07 00:00:00
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User Comments

3/01/11 boom chukka even the little things are funny. "man pools are perfect for holding water" 5 stars
11/27/08 Shaun Wallner Hilarious Movie! 4 stars
1/24/08 ES I laughed so hard 4 stars
12/30/07 Indrid Cold Napoleon Dynamite crossed with an Adam Sandler movie. What could possibly go wrong? 2 stars
10/23/07 Courtney (about as bad as tennis elbow) About as contrived and stupid as a film can be. Cool beans?!? Did I miss something? 1 stars
10/23/07 William Goss Very random but often amusing stunt-based slapstick and eccentric humor. Cool beans. 4 stars
10/08/07 Meredith Corpening MMM Maybe what's really retarded is not getting it that MEAN GIRLS IS FICTIION ?!!!?? 2 stars
10/01/07 Regina George didn't really survive the school bus accident Why didn't Denise get wise sooner to old BF being a jackass? She retarded or something? 2 stars
9/26/07 Shelley Splinters Some movies are sheer insanity in a good way. This is just sheer insanity. 1 stars
8/18/07 Lattechino I think the Lonely Island, not Will Ferrel, epitomizes intelligent postmodern comedy. 5 stars
8/17/07 nicole it was hillarious 5 stars
8/15/07 me laughed so hard I couldn't breath 5 stars
8/10/07 ACE This movie had me crying....hilarious!!! 5 stars
8/10/07 Goldie Spacek saying "laugh at you" isn't clever, it's obvious. This movie is clever, not obvious. 5 stars
8/10/07 Sly In typical Lonely Island fashion, this movie delivers. Chester's character cracked me up. 5 stars
8/06/07 Private Self conscious, random and obtuse. Not for me. 2 stars
8/06/07 Trick Hilarious and Phenomenal 4 stars
8/05/07 chief boot knocka best comedy ever!!!! 5 stars
8/02/07 Linda Mann Lots of funny moments 4 stars
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  03-Aug-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 27-Nov-2007



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Akiva Schaffer

Written by
  Pam Brady

  Andy Samberg
  Isla Fisher
  Jorma Taccone
  Bill Heder
  Sissy Spacek
  Ian McShane
  Chris Parnell

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