Hot Rod is further proof that the primary aspiration of the male SNL cast member is to make 90-minute sketch films about dense man-children who can’t or refuse to grow up. This time around, it’s Andy Samberg—the bit-player responsible for overrated SNL digital shorts “Lazy Sunday” and “Dick in a Box”—plying his trade at juvenilia as the star of Akiva Schaffer’s maiden directorial outing, playing wannabe stuntman Rod Kimble, a spastic moron with Evil Knievel dreams. When stepfather Frank (Ian McShane), a hard-ass whom Rod thinks he must fight in order to earn his respect, falls ill with a heart ailment, the goofy idiot and his buddies endeavor to earn $50,000 for the requisite life-saving operation by having Rod jump 15 school buses on a motorcycle, a feat that would outdo Knievel himself. But wait, why am I recounting Hot Rod‘s nominal story when it’s merely a tired rehash of every SNL alum’s big-screen debut since Adam Sandler’s Billy Madison—replete with the love interest (Isla Fisher’s Denise) who finds the hero’s mega-immaturity endearing and sexy—as well as wholly beside the point? Samberg and Schaffer, who, along with co-star Jorma Taccone comprise the Lonely Island comedy troupe, care far less about clever plotting than random ridiculousness, and the film’s funniest gags are those most out of left field, such as an inspired scene in which Samberg and Taccone’s inexplicable repetition of the phrase “cool beans” is edited to suggest a DJ scratching vinyl. That this and other moments have a distinctly homemade YouTube vibe is likely an intentional entreaty to onliners who made “Lazy Sunday” a small-scale phenom. The same explanation, however, doesn’t hold true for the rest of the lameness on display, from the plethora of unimaginative pratfalls and wasted opportunities to, finally, the incessant ‘80s nostalgia (references to Footloose and The Karate Kid, music from the band Europe) that Samberg and his buddies don’t seem to realize became played out sometime shortly after 1998’s The Wedding Singer.
- Paramount Pictures
- 88 min
- Akiva Schaffer
- Pam Brady
- Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Bill Hader, Danny R. McBride, Isla Fisher, Sissy Spacek, Ian McShane, Will Arnett
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