Featuring a younger generation of ‘Saturday Night Live’ regulars, Hot Rod taps into the geeky 80s craze so popular since Napoleon Dynamite. My initial reaction to John Heder’s breakthrough film was perhaps a little harsh, and it’s definitely one that grows on you with repeat viewing. Hot Rod is more easily accessible and a little more predictable, but also more enjoyable for its outright stupidity.
Andy Samberg plays Rod Kimble, amateur stuntman who may think he’s hot, but when it comes down to it he’s so accident prone that he should have died several times over. Physical comedy is Hot Rod’s main game, and it has it in spades. From the opening scene the film sets a standard for great, simple, pratfalls. The majority of the stunts seem to be done by real people, a fact which is appreciated in this age of CGI-addled films. It’s also nice to see a comedy that doesn’t purely rely on gross-out humour. In a rather ridiculous but somehow appropriate plot, Hot Rod sees Rod vow to raise enough money doing stunts to get his uncaring stepfather the medical attention he requires, just so that Rod can prove himself in the old man’s eyes.
The overall plot follows a fairly standard comedy movie arc, and don’t go for looking for any huge surprises. The minutiae are thoroughly entertaining, however. Rod’s ‘crew’ comprises a bunch of similarly pathetic but proud dorks, who do their best to support his increasingly risky stunts. It’s only when ‘sexy girl next door’ Denise (Isla Fisher) joins them that they start to get somewhere. All the cast are up to the task, though Samberg perhaps needs another film to prove he is capable of more than mimicking Will Ferrell (it comes as no surprise to learn that Ferrell was an executive producer). Sissy Spacek’s talents are wasted as Rod’s mum, but Ian McShane is certainly having fun post-‘Deadwood’, with this and The Seeker: The Dark is Rising under his belt.
Just like Napoleon Dynamite, this movie frustrated me with its kind of ‘alternative history’ approach – it SEEMS to be the 80s, since they wear Wrestlemania t-shirts and love ‘Voltron’, yet people have mobiles and the internet. I appreciate that ever since The Wedding Singer the 80s have become kinda cool again, but why take these half steps? Is it just lazy writing by people who can’t be bothered trying to figure out how we communicated in the days before the world wide web?Rating: