Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

This movie is pretty damn funny.  Seriously.  It was hit and miss at times but hit for the most part and definitely a comedy in the truest sense of the word.  Now, I didn’t think it was quite as funny as the dude sitting next to me at the screening for ‘Hot Rod’ though.  I mean this dude was spitting pop out of his nose and sending goobers flying through air.  Mind you I’m sitting in critics row at the screening for this movie so usually the folks sitting next to or around me are fairly staid, but not this cat.  I seriously thought I was going to have to call an EMS unit to revive my man after he dropped to a knee, bopped his head on the chair in front of him and caught a goober in his esophagus.  Don’t get wrong now,  I thought ‘Hot Rod’ was pretty funny, but it wasn’t THAT funny.

I don’t know who Andy Samberg is, though he does have a passing resemblance to Adam Sandler.  A little research tells me that he is a member of a comedy trio called the Lonely Island which also includes Akiva Schaeffer who directed this movie and Jorma Taccone who plays Samberg’s brother in the film.  Lonely Island makes little comedy movies and posts them on the internet but I’ve never seen a Lonely Island sketch, which stands to reason since I’ve never heard of Andy Samberg.  Samberg is also a member of Saturday Night Live too, but considering I thought that show was cancelled back in ’99 well…

Anyway, Samberg is Rod Kimble, a young man with two major goals in life and that is to honor his late biological father and become the best two wheel stuntman alive, and force his step father (Ian McShane) to respect him as a man.  In that regard Rod and his step dad often engage in impromptu fist-to-cuffs, ala Inspector Clouseau and his house man Cato, usually resulting in Rod getting beat near to death.  In-between the ass-kickings Rod is usually planning his next disastrous stunt with his crew that includes his half-brother Kevin (Taccone), his stoner mechanic Dave (Bill Hader) and his ram-tough construction engineer Rico (Danny R. McBride).  With crew in tow, Rod performs one failed stunt after another on his moped in hopes of living up to the legacy of his dead father.

Tragedy strikes when Rod’s mom (Sissy Spaceck) informs Rod that his step dad has a heart ailment and will die in weeks without a transplant.  Rod can’t allow the man to die without kicking his ass at least once and gathers his crew, along with new crew member Denise (the cute to a fault Isla Fisher), the pretty college girl who’s always been next door, Rod devises a plan to execute the biggest stunt ever to generate the fifty grand necessary to get his step father a heart transplant so that Rod can finally kick that ass.

‘Hot Rod’ was a film that was obviously crafted by children of the 80’s with all of the lovely pop references to that greatest of all decades.  Sure the 40’s had Hitler, Pearl Harbor and Jim Crow but we had Michael Jackson, Wham and Square Pegs.  I rest my case.  It is a little disturbing to hear the song ‘Two of Hearts’ and remember that is was recorded by one-hit wonder Suzie Q but can’t remember your wife’s birthday to save your life.  There’s a ton more hilarious ‘80’s references with big hair rock bands in tights and make up (the 80’s was slightly gay in retrospect), and an extended Billy Squire style music video sequence. When the jokes work in this film they work wonderfully and effectively, and when they don’t, they crash in burn in flames.  There’s nothing more uncomfortable than sitting in a theater that is deathly quiet during a sequence that you know is supposed to be funny but isn’t.  Except to that dude sitting next to me.  Fortunately these moments were few and far between as Samberg and his crew of sketch comedians keeps the attempts at hilarity, successful or not, coming at a joke a minute and wisely taking none of this the least bit seriously. 

The story surrounding the comedy is irrelevant, the acting as it were is earnest and good-natured with Miss Spacek bringing her Academy Award pedigree to lend us some legitimacy and Ian McShane, who used to be British and handsome in a previous life, but now feeds his grandkids by playing super angry bitter ugly tough American Midwesterners.  Our filmmakers could have made better use out of Will Arnett, who doesn’t have to do much to be funny but just stand still, but the rest of the cast seemed to just be having a good old time simply being in a movie.

With the ‘Date Movie’ and ‘Epic Movie’ fiascos and the absolute terror that is ‘National Lampoon presents…’ always looming, comic films have become the new horror flicks in their inability to entertain.  I thank you people from that Lonely Island group that I’ve never heard of, and the dude sitting next me REALLY thanks you for making a comic film that wonders of wonders, is actually funny.

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