Hot Rod DVD: Review By Brian Gallagher

Hot Rod isn’t a bad film at all, though. It shows us the inventiveness of the Lonely Island gang – the highs and lows – but overall, it shows that this troupe does indeed have some promise… with some polishing around the edges.
  • OVERALL
    2.5
    WORTHY
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
A decent start for Lonely Island, especially the acting chops of Andy Samberg, and there are some decent features as well.
THE BAD
It seems there are a lot of inside-joke sort of things here which aren't that funny, and a lot of stuff is overplayed.
THE FEATURE
If you're someone under the age of 35, you likely know who Andy Samberg is, or, at the very least, you know of his work. If you haven't seen him on SNL, you've probably seen his hilarious videos for the SNL Digital Shorts "Lazy Sunday" and "Dick in a Box" on YouTube or any other video site on the web. It was only a matter of time before he crossed over into movies, and Hot Rod marks that transition from small to big screen. While his first foray into film wasn't quite a breakthrough, young Samberg does show us he has the chops to keep improving.

The film is almost a pseudo-throwback to the 80s, at the very least, in terms of the soundtrack. The movie is peppered with some of the corniest 80s songs you'd ever want to hear... only in the context they use them in, it's quite hilarious. The story revolves around Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) a wannabe stuntman in the image of his late father. He doesn't have a job and just floats through life, living at home, hanging out with his "crew" of Dave (Bill Hader), Rory (Danny McBride) and Kevin (Jorma Taccone), who is also his stepbrother, and all they do is hang around town and help Rod try these "stunts" he performs. It seems Rod only wants two things out of life: to become an accomplished stuntman like his father, who worked with Evel Kinevel, and gain the respect of his loathsome stepfather, Frank (Ian McShane), who he regularly fights every week - unsuccessfully - in an attempt to gain that respect. Rod's life is turned upside down by two things: the return of a hot neighbor, Denise (Isla Fisher), and his stepfather falling quite ill, which pisses Rod off because he doesn't want to die without Rod kicking his ass and earning his respect first. OK, it might not sound that funny here, but it's not too bad when you see it.

Apparently the "Lonely Island" crew of Samberg, Taccone and director Akiva Schaffer all rewrote Pam Brady's script to fit their needs, but it apparently wasn't enough for a writing credit, since Brady is the sole writer credited. Still, you can certainly tell their influence on the script, because some stuff seems right up their alley (some successful, some not) and the references of such works like Footloose, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and even Kill Bill. Still, no matter what their contributions to Brady's script, for one, it isn't totally clear throughout who's responsible for what and the script as a whole isn't quite as funny as they probably thought it'd be, not to mention that the story is quite predictable, for the most part.

Still, we do get some solid performances throughout, as one of the script's strong suits is the characters, and the performers all have quite a grasp on their characters as well. Danny McBride, Bill Hader and Jorma Taccone, who make up the crew, all have solid characters and performances to boot. While I think Isla Fisher's character was fairly weak (and so insanely common to these types of stories), her performance was pretty darn good. Then there's Samberg. While it's clear that a lot of his brand of humor is just a little too weird for the American public, he does have a ton of potential as a comedic movie actor. He's capable of just giving you a look that will induce mad laughter and he really does have some solid acting chops as well. Just the mere fact that he took over for a project that was initially targeted for Will Ferrell, says quite a bit. Still, it seems that he and his Lonely Island crew need to lay off some of the quirky stuff that, likely, only they thought was funny. There is a part where Samberg over-accentuates the "Wh" parts of words, which was taken from a skit from a Gang Starr album. It's one thing to pull a Tarantino and drop subtle references with a set piece or a camera angle or maybe just one line... but to do a whole exchange in homage to something that 99% of the audience doesn't know, is pushing it just a tad.

Hot Rod isn't a bad film at all, though. It shows us the inventiveness of the Lonely Island gang - the highs and lows - but overall, it shows that this troupe does indeed have some promise... with some polishing around the edges.
THE EXTRAS
We don't get a ton of goodies here. First up if Ancestors Protect Me: Behind the Scenes of Hot Rod , which is a funny 8-minute look at some on-set shenanigans. It's rather funny because in the interviews you can tell that they're being uber-sarcastic and ripping on each other. They start with director Akiva Schaffer saying that they're there because Dane Cook passed. We get little clips of interviews with Samberg, Schaffer, Taccone, Hader and Fisher all talking about different aspects of the flick, and it's a nice little watch.

Next up are 15 Deleted and Extended Scenes, and while most of them are pretty bad, the Rob Meets Denise and Rod and the Lamps scenes are actually quite good. You might get a brief chuckle from the rest, but these are the funniest ones.

A Gag Reel is next and it actually isn't a gag reel at all. Some of the deleted scenes in the previous feature has more of a gag reel part than this, and this is basically all alternate or deleted scenes. Some stuff is kind of funny, but not so much.

Kevin's Video's are next and we have 8 short videos that Jorma Taccone's Kevin character filmed from various parts of the movie. One of them is really weird, because it's a really short tribute video that has his death listed as "2010?". Creepy. All 8 are just a few minutes long total so they're worth a watch.

Punch-Dance is next and it starts with a brief intro by Samberg explaining that this is loosely based on Kevin Bacon's warehouse dance in Footloose. It's pretty funny because that was bugging me the whole movie and I couldn't figure out where that whole scene came from. The rest of this feature shows a split-screen of both the Hot Rod scene and the Footloose scene, and just seeing both next to each other should get a giggle or two out of you.

The last thing we get here, besides the Theatrical Trailer, is a Home Video Of An Orchestra Session, that shows the actual orchestra performing in the studio live while the film plays on a screen in the background. We see random shots of Akiva Schaffer in the background doing stuff sometimes, but it's just over a minute long. Skip it.
THE VIDEO
The disc is presented in the widescreen format, enhanced for 16x9 widescreen televisions.
THE AUDIO
The sound is handled through the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound format.
THE PACKAGE
This is done with a throwback flair as well, with a pseudo-80s look to it. We have all the principals inside this big circle with Samberg up front and everyone else around him and below that a totally 80s shot of Samberg jumping the bike with a big explosion in an all-white background. The back has some critic quotes , a synopsis, a few random pics, a tiny special features listing along with the billing block and tech specs. Not too shabby.
THE FINAL WORD
Bottom line, you won't die of either boredom or laughter here, but there's enough good stuff here that's well worth a look-see. Hell, no one starts off perfect. Even Mike Myers did So I Married An Axe Murderer before he was huge... As far as first steps go, this isn't a doozy, but it gets the job done in a unique way.

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