Directed by: Akiva Schaffer
Starring: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccome, Bill Hader, Ian McShane, Sissy Spacek
Hot Rod is without a doubt, the most singularly stupid movie I have seen this year, which is quite a statement once you realize I’ve seen the likes of Epic Movie and Blades of Glory. It’s so idiotic, it’s one dead deer away from being Freddy Got Fingered (2001) stupid. It’s not even really a movie, but rather a series of random one-liners for high-school kids to quote once classes start back. The level of humor feels like it was made by a bunch of whacky teenagers and posted on YouTube (I can almost imagine the script being littered with LOLs scribbled in the margins). I would call Hot Rod a triumph of imbecilic cinema, but that would be an insult to imbeciles.
The plot follows Rod Kimble (Saturday Night Live‘s Andy Samberg), man-child and self-styled wannabe stuntman, who fashions himself after his dead father, another supposed amateur stuntman. Since Rod has daddy issues, he longs for the chance to earn the respect of his stepdad (Ian McShane), which apparently can only be done through hand-to-hand combat. The only problem is that dear old stepdad has a heart condition and can’t fight, so Rod devises a plan to raise $50,000 for a heart operation and the chance to beat up the 60-year-old man. As stupid as that plot summary is, the movie manages to somehow be even more dimwitted in practice.
All of the film’s jokes, if you can call them that, are of the Will Ferrell/Adam Sandler school of spouting-off randomness, and any chance that it might have had at working is crippled by the specter of bogus, worn-out ‘80s ironic nostalgia that’s slathered over the entire film. It’s a movie for people who think Chuck Norris jokes are hilarious, or for anyone who finds just the sight of a mustache or the sound of a Europe song uproariously funny. There’s never any attempt at actually crafting an honest-to-goodness joke. Instead, you get gags like people repeating the phrase “cool beans” repeatedly for about a minute, or a giant taco fighting a giant grilled-cheese sandwich.
Sure, there’s a certain peculiarity to it all, but it’s recycled peculiarity lifted from Napoleon Dynamite (2004), chewed up, swallowed and regurgitated. Hot Rod‘s cast of quirky white-trash misfits would fit in fine in Napoleon Dynamite, while Rod’s constant evocation of power animals isn’t all that far removed from Dynamite’s “ligers.” There’s even an awkward dance sequence stuck in there for good measure. Whatever charm Napoleon Dynamite had three years ago has long since worn off, and the approach fares no better as a secondhand cast-off.
The film’s draw is supposedly Samberg, who’s the latest Saturday Night Live cast member to be given a shot at a movie career. On camera, Samberg comes across as smug, giving way to the Ferrell “Hey, look at me, I’m funny” style of juvenilia, which usually consists of being inordinately loud and artificially offbeat. As a matter of fact, the movie wouldn’t be quite as horrible if the entire cast didn’t give the impression that they are just oh-so-funny. I can just imagine the off-camera high fives that went on between scenes. Even the basic visceral joy of seeing Samberg repeatedly bludgeoned, battered, set aflame or run over by a van isn’t enough to make the movie even remotely enjoyable. If Hot Rod is any indication, Samberg’s career deserves to go the way of Jimmy Fallon’s or Joe Piscopo’s, but I fear he’s just the right combination of untalented, unfunny, obnoxious and asinine to be at least as big as Adam Sandler. Rated PG-13 for crude humor, language and some comic drug-related and violent content.