Hot Rod – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Directed by
Akiva Schaffer

Cast:
Andy Samberg … Rod Kimble
Jorma Taccone … Kevin Powell
Bill Hader … Dave
Danny R. McBride … Rico
Isla Fisher … Denise
Sissy Spacek … Marie Powell
Ian McShane … Frank Powell
Will Arnett … Jonathan
Chris Parnell … Barry Pasternak
Chester Tam … Richardson
Mark Acheson … Homeless Dude
Brittany Tiplady … Maggie


The Movie:

Nearly a genre unto itself, the Saturday Night Live movie is a series of films that pretty much stretch back to Animal House, all starring current or former SNL cast members. The movies tend to feature very similar plots, where characters must come up with a ridiculous scheme in order to save themselves or loved ones who are in desperate need of help, usually with a romantic subplot thrown in for good measure. While The Blues Brothers and Wayne’s World serve as the zenith of these pictures, the majority of this group leave much to be desired, with flicks like Superstar and Coneheads being more typical examples of this “genre”. Lying somewhere in the middle in terms of quality is Hot Rod, the newest example of the films.

While the movie isn’t based on a skit from Saturday Night Live, it is produced by the show’s Creator and Executive Producer Lorne Michaels, and stars current cast member Andy Samberg as well as a number of other SNL vets. Samberg and his cohorts from Thelonelyisland.com have been the best thing about the show for the last few years, with their hysterical digital shorts, such as D*** in a Box and Doppelganger, giving the late night hallmark an energy that had been missing for some time. Fortunately, a lot of that irreverent style translates quite well to their first feature.

Samberg stars as Rod Kimble, a misguided, self proclaimed stunt man, who ends up hurting himself way more than he ever thrills a crowd. His main focus in life is just to survive these ridiculous jumps and explosions, and to eventually crush his stepfather Frank (Ian McShane) in a man to man fight to death. When Frank’s heart begins to give out on him, Rod’s world is turned upside down, struggling to find a way to pay for his surgery (“You’re wrong Frank. I’m not a kid, I’m a man. I am gonna get you better, and then I’m gonna beat you to death!”). Finally, Rod decides that only by putting together a ludicrous stunt can he save this man that he loves to hate and finally prove to himself he’s a real stuntman.

Directed by Lonely Island comrade Akiva Schaffer, Hot Rod isn’t going to win any awards for a complicated plot or emotive acting, but it does get points for inspired comedy bits throughout the movie. Besides the stunts, Schaffer puts together some pretty decent physical comedy scenes, including a ludicrous riff on the “punch-dancing” sequence in Footloose, as well as a tumble down a hill that goes to epic proportions. Fans of Danny McBride from All the Real Girls will probably also get a kick out of seeing him go to town during one the movie’s more violent scenes.

In fact, all the actors are likeable and seem to be having no end of fun here, and Samberg has that same childlike quality that makes him so lovable on SNL. Bill Hader and Jorma Taccone also get some good camera time as part of Rod’s crew, especially Hader, who plays his spaced out Dave to the hilt. A scene involving acid is both painful to watch and uncontrollably comical in its execution.

The most fun to be had from the picture though, are the funny bits of pop culture references and the boat load of goofy dialogue you get, as the “wHat?” sequence from the movie’s trailer is a highlight, but no match for an insane examination of the phrase “cool beans”. I also laughed out loud as Samberg’s character tries to emphasize a point by referencing some old school M.C. Hammer, and an 80’s movie march/riot breaks out for virtually no reason. It’s these moments that really stand out in the flick and give it its irreverent tone, and if the movie had more moments like this into it, Hot Rod could have really given The Blues Brothers a run for its money.

It’s too bad the movie just isn’t able to string enough jokes together to put it in the same league with the best of Belushi or Mike Myers. While the picture is likable and its characters endearing, there are too many dead spots and the plot seems a little too warmed over. Of the cast’s two biggest stars, I love Ian McShane here, but Sissy Spacek is pretty much wasted as Rod’s mother, as she doesn’t get much screen time and doesn’t really do anything with what she has.

What all this amounts to is an amusing movie, that doesn’t overstay its welcome, but doesn’t end up terribly memorable either. Samberg and his crew have the ability to make pop culture mainstays (as the digital shorts have proven), and films like this don’t help their cause. This isn’t bad for a first time out, but hopefully there’s a movie in their future that’s good enough to where we don’t have to associate these guys with SNL anymore, like we’ve done with the best cast members of the past.


The DVD:

The Video
The movie looks pretty good on this DVD. There aren’t any obvious flaws on the print and the colors are bright. The film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1

The Audio
The Audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is excellent. The movie’s soundtrack booms throughout, but never overpowers dialogue or sound design.


SPECIAL FEATURES:

Audio Commentary by Director Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, and Jorma Taccone – If you like listening to these guys talk and goof around, then by all means listen to this commentary. These three are ridiculous as they constantly go off subject or give us funny anecdotes about how they came up with certain jokes. For instance, the “wHat?” jokes were inspired by an interlude on a rap album. The guys are also amazed that they got such good talent to work on the film as their Cinematographer Andrew Dunn and Production Designer Stephen Altman both worked on Godsford Park, and they tend to gush about these two for a while.

Ancestors Protect Me: Behind the Scenes of Hot Rod – I would say that this was a pretty standard “Making of” Featurette, but most of these things don’t feature Jorma Taccone with no pants on, which is what you get here.

Home Video Footage of Orchestra Recording Session – This goes just over a minute and basically just shows Akiva goofing off at the recording session.

Kevin’s Videos – These are eight different video sequences of Samberg’s character from the movie training and getting ready for the jump. With titles such as “Jetski: The Real Deal” and “Donut King!”, you get to see Andy crashing into walls and yes, talking about jetskis.

Deleted and Extended Scenes – There’s 13 scenes here, most of which are ok, the best being a scene showing Rod go crazy when he learns Frank is dying. The scene just goes a little longer than the one in the movie, the final gag you get is hilarious.

Bloopers – Here’s the thing about this blooper reel; it’s not a blooper reel. This is really just 3 minutes of alternative takes. That’s not to say these aren’t funny, but they’re not bloopers either.

Trailers

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Hot Rod
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

7
THE VIDEO

8
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

7
REPLAY VALUE

8
OVERALL
7.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

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