The only place that I think anyone would really know Andy Samberg is as the brains behind some of the hilarious Saturday Night Live digital shorts over the last couple of years. The most notable being a Christmas gift that you can give your beloved. A gift you can make yourself, using three easy steps. Step one, cut a whole in the box…
So he’s taken the five to ten minute short and tried to harness that humor into a ninety minute feature film, which everyone seems to be doing, right? Well in Hot Rod, the feature film debut of Samberg, he plays Rod Kimble, a stuntman without a lot of charisma or ability, relying on a moped as his means of wowing the stunt crowd. With the help of his friends Rico (Danny McBride, The Foot Fist Way), and Dave (Bill Hader, Superbad) and his stepbrother Kevin (Jorma Taccone), Rod tries to impress his stepfather Frank (Ian McShane, Deadwood), who Rod challenges to fights in order to win some respect. His mom Marie (Sissy Spacek, Coal Miner’s Daughter) tries to help him through it also, and Rod’s prospective love interest is his longtime neighbor Denise (Isla Fisher, Wedding Crashers) is a problem for him, since Denise is dating Jonathan (Will Arnett, Blades of Glory).
As you can tell from the concept itself, the film’s story is pretty easy to follow, and it’s steeped in a lot of nostalgia for stuntmen (and Evel Knievel, in particular), while having a lot of music designed to make you feel a little bit retro. The hair and costumes help that too. And because Samberg is an SNL cast member, this is peppered with members of the cast. Former cast member Will Ferrell executive produces, while Chris Parnell is among the other recognizable faces in the film.
But is this thing funny? Well, that’s the hard part, to be perfectly honest. There are parts of it that do make you laugh out loud. But they’re far from hilarious. If anything, they’re sporadic bursts of humor that don’t really sustain anything. As for the film itself, it’s really an exercise in tedium. You know what’s going to happen in the story and you’re just waiting on the jokes, and the sad part is that many of them just don’t deliver. In a year when sports comedies like Balls of Fury and others seem to rule the roost, Hot Rod should have stayed out in the cold.
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround for not a lot of real sound immersion, although the stunts pack a slight low end punch in the subwoofer, and the ‘80s heavy metal hair band soundtrack sounds clear and crisp when it’s showcased.
You get a 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced widescreen version of the film to view and marvel over if you really like the film. Everything is reproduced well and looks very natural, though the sharpness in the image tends to waver from time to time; this is far from reference quality.
Samberg, Taccone and director Akiva Schaffer bring a commentary to the table, but it’s long on shtick and short on actual production information. In fact, Schaffer is talked over when he tries to make any sort of attempt to bring anything valuable to the table. Overall this is really more annoying than beneficial for the film. From there, fifteen minutes of deleted and extended scenes are included, with Samberg re-creating the film’s main plot more effectively in three minutes than he did in ninety. There’s also some bloopers in the deleted scenes as well, which is confusing because there’s a bloopers section that’s really nothing more than the extended line or two, and wholly unfunny. Some film shot of the Kimble character is included here, and even these minute-long chunks seem tiring at best, though they’re a little better than the film itself. A ten minute long behind the scenes piece is next, which includes more shtick without a lot of real humor. Footage of Rod’s Footloose/Gymkata type “punch dance” is next, along with some comparison footage to the Kevin Bacon gem, and footage of an orchestra session scoring a sequence is next, along with the trailer.
I find out more and more that Samberg, Taccone and Schaffer are part of a comedy team named Lonely Island. To me, their humor is more in the Broken Lizard vein of comedy; it may have its moments, but the things that are supposed to be funny simply aren’t, so I wait for the occasional laugh that the subversive part brings. This disc has some extras but nothing worth writing home about, so how much you’re going to want to buy this disc depends on how much you’ll find these guys funny. Desert island wise, I wouldn’t even rent this thing.