Hot Rod, or “hey, there was totally just something playing on the screen a second ago”, is a comedy, as well as a coming of age story. The character that has to grow up is named Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg). He’s a wannabe stuntman, who, after crash after crash, doesn’t give up. He continues to reach for the stars, seemingly with his only motivation being that his late father was also a stuntman.
But, alas, his father is dead, replaced with another man named Frank (Ian McShane). Frank constantly beats Rod down, and tells him that until Rod can beat him in a fight, Rod will never be a real man. These constant beat-downs become even more downing on Rod’s self-esteem when he, and by extension, the audience, learns that Frank’s heart is giving out on him. He needs a heart transplant that will cost a “conveniently priced” sum of $50,000.
Rod wants to raise this money, not because he cares whether or not Frank lives or dies, but because he feels the need to earn his respect. You can’t very well fight a man lying on the couch dying, can you? That’s what Rod believes as well, so he devises a plan to raise the money. He will jump over a grand total of 15 busses, (one more than Evel Knievel did), and hope that people will donate to his cause.
We’ve already seen Rod fail though; he can’t even jump over a pool. He needs to get in to top physical and mental condition if he’s going to pull this stunt off. He enlists the help of his crew to do this, and here is where the film actually begins doing something noteworthy.
It’s odd though, because even though the plot picks up from this point, the film doesn’t exactly become “funny”. There weren’t many moments where I was laughing or even chuckling. I mean, they even re-hash the way a character pronounces words beginning in “wh” from Family Guy. If that doesn’t say “trying too hard”, then I’m not really sure what does.
This is the most unfortunate thing about Hot Rod. It just isn’t all that funny, meaning that if you go in expecting to have a lot of laughs, you will likely leave disappointed. I didn’t, because I enjoyed other aspects of it, and also because I know I don’t have the sense of humor that the film was trying to appease, maybe it will make other people laugh, I don’t know.
What I did come to appreciate was the plot and the characters involved within it. The story is simple enough, with a clear target at the end for the characters to aim for. And yet, even with the simple story, there are multiple subplots and character arcs for us to follow, so that we won’t get bored with the one, clear-cut goal.
The characters throughout the film are also interesting enough to hold our attention. There is a mix of completely over-the-top characters and down to Earth ones, each interesting by themselves. We want to get to know them throughout the course of the film, and the film delivers on this desire. We get enough of the supporting cast to satisfy this want, while still focusing on the lead character more than enough so that we can relate with him on a personal level.
I wish I could say a lot more about the film, but that’s about all there is to say. It’s a bare-bones film, not having much depth or humor, instead relying more on its plot and characters to keep the audience’s attention. Or maybe that’s just me. Humor, of course, is something very difficult to peg down, because everyone will find different things funny. I didn’t find much in Hot Rod funny, but I know people who thought it was the funniest movie ever. For me, the charactehrs and plot were interesting enough to make me continue to watch the film, and I ended up having a decent enough time. I wish I would have laughed more, but it’s fine that I didn’t. The humor just wasn’t for me.