Unemployed self-proclaimed but inept stuntman Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) lives at home with his nerdy stepbrother Kevin (Jorma Tacco), loving mother Marie (Sissy Spacek) and cranky stepfather Frank (Ian McShane) with whom he has a fiery relationship. Believing he is the son of Evel Knievel's test-rider stuntman who died in his prime, Rod spends all his time attempting stunts on his moped with the help of his low-IQ friends, so-called mechanic Dave (Bill Hader), his ramp builder Rico (Danny McBride) and team manager, brother Kevin. He's utterly hopeless, but things are looking up with smart and sweet Denise (Isla Fisher) moving back next door. Then, when Frank is diagnosed with a heart condition and needs a $50,000 operation to save his life, Rod decides to try to raise the money by attempting his biggest stunt yet - to jump over 15 buses.
Review by Louise Keller:
Prepare to be dazzled, we are told in the first few minutes, as fireworks are lit in eager anticipation. But the fireworks fizzle big time, as does this tedious, tired comedy that is short on appeal and laughs. Wacky and low-brow it is, but fun it ain't and while Saturday Night Live's Andy Samberg might raise a laugh in the comfort of his own environment, his would-be stuntman is played on one discordant note. More suited to a TV sketch, the premise is not only too thin, but too contrived for us to relate to it on any level.
He wears a fake moustache ('All great men have moustaches'), dresses like a dorky superhero and says all he wants is to earn his abusive stepfather's love and respect. As the relationship between Rod and Frank is unpleasantly violent, it is difficult to understand why getting Frank's approval is so important to Rod, but that aside, none of the relationships are believable. It is hard to imagine what prompted Sissy Spacek to take on the thankless role of Rod's mother, or Isla Fisher's partaking as Rod's dream girl (Isla's sweet-hearted Denise is the most likeable character in the film). Also surprising (and totally incongruous) is the sequence in which John Farnham's You're The Voice is used (or misused), in the slow-motion lead-up to the big stunt and in which we see shots of people walking in the street mouthing the words! Let's hope Farnham is well paid for the use of his distinctive voice.
Perhaps the most original moment comes when Rod chills out in his quiet place (in the forest), and begins a frenetic punch-dancing routine, culminating in a long-winded tumble. His out of body experience/dream involving a battling chicken sandwich and a taco is enticingly absurd, but by the time we ask ourselves if the stunt will take place, will he succeed, or do we care, we are eagerly hankering for the finish line.
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HOT ROD (M)
CAST: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Sissy Spacek, Bill Hader, Danny R. McBride, Isla Fisher, Ian McShane, Will Arnett
PRODUCER: John Goldwyn, Lorne Michaels
DIRECTOR: Akiva Schaffer
SCRIPT: Pam Brady
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew Dunn
EDITOR: Malcolm Campbell
MUSIC: Trevor Rabin
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stephen Altman
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 11, 2007