Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 28 min.
Release Date: August 3rd, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Akiva Schaffer Actors: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Isla Fisher, Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Sissy Spacek, Ian McShane, Will Arnett, Chris Parnell, Brittany Tiplady, Britt Irvin
ntermittently reaching new heights of comic absurdity, Akiva Schaffer’s feature debut “Hot Rod” blends ridiculous slapstick, obnoxious antics, and random outbursts of genius – though far less of the latter. From time to time it moves into done-before territory, but manages to counteract such familiarity with heavy visual comedy, mind-blowing non sequiturs, and jarringly repetitious lunacy. But by the end, it seems that “Hot Rod” is just not capable of going the distance.
Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) is driven to be a great stuntman by the legend of his deceased real father, and the burning desire to be respected by his miserable stepfather Frank (Ian McShane). When Frank falls fatally ill, with the only viable cure being a $50,000 heart transplant, Rod and his team of misfit colleagues, joined by childhood friend and love interest Denise (Isla Fisher), determine to perform a harrowing stunt to raise the money. And his goal is no easy feat: jump 15 school buses with his moped – a record-setting endeavor sure to rival the likes of Evel Knievel.
So many varying comedic ideas surface in this “SNL” collaborators project that the few truly creative ones get bogged down by the influx of ill-conceived misses – perhaps an obvious result based on the filmmakers’ backgrounds. For every unexpectedly clever farce, two ridiculously juvenile concepts rise up to drown out the brief moment of ingenuity. The slapstick, on the other hand, works as intended, but parallels a regularly employed style of repetitive silliness that can only go so far before becoming tiring to the senses. Several segments, such as the “quiet place” scene and the team member introductions to Denise offer a fresh take on repetition, but by the time “cool beans” rolls around, it’s difficult to stay amused.
The most original aspect of “Hot Rod’s” humor comes from the extreme randomness of certain snippets of dialogue and unrelated inserts that neither serve to enhance the story nor relate to the proceedings they interrupt. Pitting personified grilled cheese sandwiches against tacos, singing to stuffed animals, and inspirational marches turned to rioting in the streets mark just some of the more bizarre inventions unsystematically imbedded for quick laughs and shock value. As the film progresses, this quantity of small, impulsive jokes accrues, but the laugh-out-loud moments are seen less and less.
The acting matches the movie’s humor, which is to say that it’s periodically mundane. Though Samberg clearly gets the best lines, every so often one of the supporting characters will steal some of the spotlight, though this is rare from Rod’s rather forgettable crewmen. Co-creator and actor Jorma Taccone receives the most opportunities to accomplish this, imparting complementary childishness and painfully idiotic additives, while Isla Fisher provides mostly just her sex appeal; at times, even her Australian accent slips through her speeches. With this cast and this plot – little more than an excuse for contemporary immaturity by internet sensation The Lonely Island – it’s evident that anyone younger than the film’s stars will likely be the only crowds to find entertainment in this slipshod arrangement of incongruous gags. But perhaps the notion most detrimental to the humor is the protagonists’ motives, which are empty and unemotional – and irrelevant. For the most part, “Hot Rod” feels like stumbling into the middle of a joke; no matter how funny the punch line is, it’s just not as satisfying as hearing the whole thing.
– The Massie Twins