SNL's next most-likely-to-succeed, Andy Samberg, makes a peculiar love-it or hate-it grab for the big-screen brass ring as Rod Kimble, a misfit who dreams of making his late stuntman father proud by becoming a stunt performer himself.
According to family legend, Rod's father was once Evel Knievel's assistant and tested the Great One's bikes by performing all the stunts himself, off-camera and away from any cheering crowd. It was while executing one such stunt that he was killed while Rod was just a baby. Now an adult but still living at home with his mother (Sissy Spacek), half-brother, Kevin (Jorma Taccone) and wickedly abusive stepfather, Frank (Deadwood's Ian McShane), Rod is determined to follow in dear old dad's footsteps. But rather than go through any proper training, Rod simply dons a yellow cape and putters around the neighborhood on his red moped, spinning circles in the dirt and staging lame, ill-fated stunts like attempting to jump the community pool. In addition to doing his daddy proud, Rod must earn the respect of Frank, who routinely kicks Rod's butt in pitched Oedipal smackdowns in the basement recreation room. Rod knows Frank will never regard him as a man until the day he beats him in a show of strength, but it looks like Rod may never get the chance to taste that sweet victory: Frank is dying and needs a heart transplant he can't afford. Refusing to be denied his only opportunity to prove his manhood, Rod plans one big stunt to raise the $50,000 for Frank's operation. With the help of his "crew" acid-zonked mechanic Dave (SNL's Bill Hader), temperamental ramp-builder Rico (Danny R. McBride), manager/videographer Kevin and girl-next-door/love-of-Rod's-life Denise (Isla Fisher) Rod will jump a record-breaking 15 buses on his moped, buy Frank a new heart and then kick his ass.
Directed by Akiva Schaffer, Samberg's partner in The Lonely Island comedy trio (Taccone is the third Lonely Islander), and written by South Park veteran Pam Brady, the film is geared toward a very specific audience: those old enough to remember bad '80s movies, bombastic hair metal, and the inexplicable '70s mania for stunt performers; kids ironically detached enough to find humor in the foolish entertainments of an older generation; and any loser who still believes never growing up is synonymous with never selling out. Filled with a random assortment throwaway gags, dumb pranks gone awry and Final Cut Pro cutups, HOT ROD is a little like a leisurely surf through YouTube. But if you fit into any of the above categories or count yourself a Samberg fan (ask yourself, did you laugh at "Dick in a Box"?), there's a pretty good chance you'll find at least some of it pretty funny. leave a comment --Ken Fox