After meeting the funny, friendly Andy Samberg and his buddies ("The Dudes") I wanted very much to give Hot Rod a great review. But I just can't do it. Luckily, Samberg himself said once in a separate interview that he knows the movie will get bad reviews. So... woo hoo! I can write this guilt-free.
The premise of Hot Rod is pretty funny, really. Rod Kimble (Samberg) gets no respect from his surly stepfather Frank (Ian McShane). So when he learns that Frank will die unless he gets an expensive heart transplant, Rod vows to raise the money to get Frank a new heart so he can then kick his ass and prove that he's a man. Rod and his buddies cook up a plan for a fundraising event in which Rod will jump his motorbike over a bunch of buses. Montages set to '80s music ensue. That's just the plot, though, so to see what I thought of the movie,
Despite not having written the movie, the entire thing has the look and feel of one of Samberg and Friends' "SNL" shorts that goes on for way, way too long. It was originally written as a vehicle for Will Ferrell, and indeed it seems just like a Will Ferrell movie... without Will Ferrell. I think Will Ferrell can sell through a lot of poor scripts just on his fully committed, blithely innocent charm. Andy Samberg... not so much. It's funny that Samberg's buddy and Hot Rod director Akiva Schaffer claims to have tweaked the script to make it more appropriate to Samberg's humor because they didn't want it to be "like Samberg doing a Will Ferrell impression." Because that's exactly what it seems to be.
I enjoyed the allusions to 80s movies — all the synth music, the homages to Rad and Footloose, the wacky low-budget tone. And I love anything Isla Fisher does, though as the generic "girl" part in the movie she's insultingly underused. The focus isn't on her at all, but on these dudes and their gimmicky antics. The most entertaining and relaxed scenes are those that include "Arrested Development"'s Will Arnett whose breezy ability to play the ultimate douchebag comes in handy once again.
Andy Samberg has a great comedic mind for writing "SNL" shorts ("Dick in a Box" was hilarious, for example), but he isn't commanding enough to be the lead in a feature film. In fact, he doesn't seem particularly comfortable playing the lead in a feature film. Next time someone writes a Will Ferrell film, I hope they can get Will Ferrell to be in it.
Photos courtesy of Paramount