Have you ever wanted to punch-dance in the woods? Do you yearn to be an amateur stuntman? Are your friends a pack of endearing, loyal morons? Then it’s highly probable you’ll like the movie Hot Rod.
At the time this film came out, Andy Samberg was a Saturday Night Live cast member known for his ridiculous SNL Digital Shorts that would often go viral as a matter of principle. The shorts were primarily developed by The Lonely Island, a comedy troupe featuring Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer. Among other films they were also responsible for Hot Rod which starred both Samberg and Taccone, and was directed by Schaffer.
Hot Rod is the story of Rod Kimble, played by Samberg, an amateur stuntman following in the footsteps of his long deceased Father. He is very, very bad at it, mainly because he insists on performing most of his stunts using a dilapidated Hyundai moped. Rod’s crew is made up of Jorma Taccone, who plays his half-brother, and a group of friends that consists of Bill Hader, Danny McBride and Isla Fisher. Rod is blindsided by the announcement that his step-father played by Ian McShane is dying and the family cannot afford to pay for the required transplant. Rod decides to perform one big stunt to raise the funds needed and save his step-father’s life.
So he can beat the old man to death.
Rod has a…strained relationship with his step-father. To prove he is a man, Rod fights the old man in their basement once a week. His step-father always comes out on top. Rod vows to save his step-father so they can face off one more time and he can beat him into submission, gaining his approval.
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This twist on the “once last chance” paradigm makes Hot Rod interesting. We’ve all seen plenty of movies where a group of people band together to raise money to save a friend, family member or local rec centre. The idea that the hero is fighting to save a family member so that he can defeat him adds an extra dimension to the film, both in its plot but also in its humour.
There are several odd but charming performances from a number of funny actors, like Danny McBride and Chris Parnell. Will Arnett appears as a particularly Gob Bluth-esque character, making the watcher wistful for Arrested Development. Isla Fisher also turns in a great performance as Rod’s love interest, co-lunatic and enabler. But, just as he does all too often in Saturday Night Live sketches, Bill Hader, another SNL Digital Shorts regular, steals the show as the “mechanic” of Rod’s crew.
If you aren’t familiar with the SNL Digital Shorts, you should definitely consider going online and watching a few. Shorts like I’m on a Boat, Like a Boss and Dick in a Box went viral and gained a lot of mainstream attention, so you are probably aware of them at least on a cursory level. But if you have a few minutes, definitely check out…
1) Natalie’s Rap: An early short where Natalie Portman raps about what a badass she is.
2) People Getting Punched Right Before Eating: Samberg dives into frame, punching people in the face right before they take a bite of food. Victims include Jon Bon Jovi and Dave Grohl. Believe in your dreams!
3) The Laser Cats Series: This is an ongoing gag throughout the years of SNL Digital Shorts. Basically, Hader and Samberg are perpetually pitching Laser Cats to Lorne Michaels, who also produces Hot Rod alongside Will Ferrell. Michaels hates it so, as the series goes on, Hader and Samberg eventually drag James Cameron and Steven Spielberg into the mess. Both directors cameo in different shorts.
4) Great Day: Have you ever wanted to see a musical number that admits it is fuelled by cocaine? Then this is for you!
Hot Rod fits in the same category as comedies like Van Wilder, Grandma’s Boy and Accepted in that it is a guilty pleasure. Funny, but a guilty pleasure nonetheless. Hot Rod is weird, offbeat and, at times, downright crazy but it is not to be missed if you are a fan of the SNL Digital Shorts and the crew of The Lonely Island.
Ian Goodwillie is a columnist for the Spectator Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at@ThePrairieGeek and on Tumblr at iangoodwillie.tumblr.com.
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