Sunday, May 29, 2016

Movie Review: "Hot Rod" (2007)

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Movie"Hot Rod"
Director: Akiva Schaffer
Year: 2007
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Deluded stuntman Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) wants nothing more than to earn his stepfather Frank's (Ian McShane) respect through combat. When he learns that Frank has a heart condition that will cost $50,000 dollars to fix, he comes up with a plan to perform a huge stunt to earn the money and save Frank's long as he can still kick his ass and prove he's a man.

Directed by Akiva Schaffer and starring his Lonely Island band mate Andy Samberg as the self-proclaimed, self-deluded slacker stuntman Rod Kimble, "Hot Rod" is a silly comedy that pokes fun at old 80's teen films with a stuntman twist. It plays with a lot of tropes from the teen genre, like needing a certain amount of money to save something/someone, and coming up with a plan by performing some kind stunt/entering a competition that will earn the exact the amount needed to save the day. If you think about it, this happens a lot in movies, and Samberg's Rod is the one that must save the day here. Rod falls somewhere between being a confident idiot and a lovable loser. He is constantly in a battle of muscle with his stepdad Frank, played by Ian McShane, and the two regularly throw blows at one another, though Frank's the one who connects with his shots. When it is discovered that Frank has a heart problem, Rod's first thought is to hold a charity event where he will break the current bus-jumping record on his moped. There's just one problem: Rod absolutely sucks at doing stunts. With the help of some friends, Rod goes on a quest to raise the money for Frank so, once he is better, he can finally kick his ass to prove to him that he is, in fact, a man. Joining Rod are his stunt team, consisting of Samberg's The Lonely Island band mate Jorma Taccone, who plays his brother Kevin, Bill Hader as Dave, and Danny McBride as Rico. All of these guys are pretty dumb, but friends stick together, right? An extra addition to the team comes from Rod's would-be love interest and the girl next door Denise, played by Isla Fisher, who is home from school and wants to help any way she can, and is oblivious to the fact that Rod is in love with her. Another notable but mostly absent member of this ensemble cast is Sissy Spacek as Rod's mom Marie, and we honestly have no idea how or why she and McShane agreed to be in this movie. Finally, Will Arnett plays Denise's douchey boyfriend Jonathan, who acts and feels like everyone is beneath him.

There is a lot about "Hot Rod" that is very familiar and very 80's, from the way people dress to the style of music the characters listen to. Hell, even the whole look of the town is quintessential mid-west in the 80's. If it weren't for a few modern cars and present day technological devices, you might almost think it was set in the 80's. The humor ranges from a lot of moments that are really funny to others that are just groan-worthy. Samberg's Rod is awkward, overly ambitious, and cocky. He gets a lot of screen time as the main character, so how you enjoy this movie will obviously directly relate to how much you like Samberg himself. He plays this stupidly relatable part well, though. There are members of this cast we like, such as Bill Hader, and others we aren't all that fond of, like Danny McBride. Hader is capable of pulling nearly anything off and is good here, but McBride plays the same obnoxious yokel in pretty much everything he does. At a mere hour and 28 minutes, it moves relatively fast, but if you're not into the humor or the acting, we can definitely see it feeling a lot longer than it is. Much of the film is hit or miss, and the entire thing falls just short of being something really good.

"Hot Rod" is one of those bad movies that's tolerable. You keep watching waiting for it to get better because you like most of the people involved, but you know you're kidding yourself if you call it a good movie when it's over. We still don't entirely hate it, try as we might. There are some funny jokes mixed in with some really bad ones, though the dumb humor is almost always overshadowed by its decent parody attempts. It's the definition of a guilty pleasure, and though it likely won't be remembered in the vastness of time, just because we weren't completely sold on it doesn't mean The Lonely Island guys should stop trying to make awesome comedies.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 40%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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