The misadventures of an inept stuntman tasked with raising cash the only way he knows how, by crashing into stuff, sounds like it should be a veritable comedy treasure trove. Super Dave Osborn did it to such miraculous heights of hilarity back in 2000 with “The Extreme Adventures of Super Dave”. Hm? What? You say that movie wasn’t funny at all and couldn’t have tanked worse if it was driven by General Sherman? Well, apparently Andy Samberg, the guy who brought us the brilliant “Lazy Sunday” video, thought otherwise. We are now at minute 13 of Mr. Samberg’s 15 minutes of fame.
Hot Rod evokes memories of that horrible string of SNL-related movies released in the late 80’s all the way up to the late 90’s. From “It’s Pat” all the way to “The Ladies Man”, these films have all had one thing in common: One joke stretched way too thin. Hot Rod apparently took these films and used them as a sort of coda, because it got extremely tiresome watching Rod crash again….and again…and again. Night at the Roxbury was more palatable by comparison.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around wannabe stuntman, Rod Kimble. Rod’s father had been a great stuntman, so Rod feels he must follow in daddy’s footsteps. All evidence points to Rod being a monumental failure, but in the Hot Rod universe none of that matters. Rod now lives with his mom, played by the formerly great now wasting away Sissy Spacek. His stepfather, Frank, is played by Deadwood’s Ian McShane with Swearengen-esque spit ‘n gristle. Frank and Rod don’t really get along, to put it mildly. Frank routinely beats the snot out of poor, clueless Rod, presumably hoping to make a man out of him. Whatever his reasons, it’s not all that funny.
However, when Frank is in need of an operation to fix his heart, Rod is the first to leap into action. Ofcourse it’s only so that he can kill Frank himself. Once again, not so much on the funny. Rod mounts up on his moped, which is about a step above a Big Wheel, and begins performing stunts to earn cash. Perhaps “performing” is the wrong word. Failing miserably might work better. Meanwhile, Rod is trying to woo his beautiful friend, Denise(played by Isla Fisher), away from her slimeball boyfriend.
Hot Rod, was initially a story written for Will Farrell, then retrofitted for Andy Samberg’s “talents”. What those talents are continue to elude me. Rod’s scenes are stiff and leaden when he’s not crashing, and the chemistry between he and Denise is like peanut butter and veal. Let’s be fair, anyone could’ve made Lazy Sunday funny. It was the material and not necessarily the performances that stood out. When actually called upon to act, Samberg shows us exactly why he’s a stand out on one of the worst seasons of SNL in recent memory. Some accolade that is. It didn’t take me long to notice that I was only laughing when Rod was tumbling down a hill, or the Asian guy was dancing. Dancing Asian guys are funny. At first.
Like most of these films with SNL castmembers, copious amounts of their castmates are sprinkled in, I guess to pad everybody’s IMDB profiles or something. Bill Hader, fresh off a brilliant turn in the far superior Superbad, does his best with some pretty weak material. McShane is in top form as always, but poor Sissy Spacek looks woefully out of place. Hard to believe she was once one of this generations best actresses. Now she’s being upstaged by Isla Fisher, who once again has nothing to work with here. She’s eye candy and nothing more, which is such a step down from her best turn to date in The Lookout. She’ll bounce back, but as for Samberg I think this is his film swan song. Sure, he’ll still pop up now and then, but the attempt to mold him into Farrell Lite has failed creatively, critically, and financially. Just like Rod, he’s crashed into the Hollywood Unholy Trifecta.