“I didn’t know that the new hipster uniform is THE LAMEST T-SHIRT YOU CAN POSSIBLY FIND! You know, it’s a little bear in a pot of honey going ‘JESUS WUVS ME THIS MUCH…’ Because it’s your way of going ‘My coolness OBVIOUSLY DEFEATS this douchiness! LOOK at me! I’m AMAZING!’” — Patton Oswalt
One thing that truly mystified me while watching the trailers of the Lorne Michaels-produced Andy Samberg vehicle Hot Rod is why the GREAT AND ALL POWERFUL Ian McShane of Deadwood and Lovejoy opted to be in a movie that looked about as funny as your grandpa’s punctured colostomy bag. I found out about five minutes in because Frank (McShane) gets in a fight with his stepson Rod (Samberg) and whips the piss out of him.
Now I don’t know about you… But if I were ever in a situation where they LET backhand the smug little bitch-smirk off of Andy Samberg’s face (even in a rigged and harmless movie fight), you wouldn’t even have to pay me. I’d show up on set early every day with an ear-to-ear grin like I was being blown by Heidi Klum.
Samberg, or “The thing that’s been killing SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE for the past two years,” got his start at the Lonely Island comedy troupe, where he made marginally funny Internet shorts. He got TV and movie deals and a lot of people like him because, apparently, low standards are funny in and of themselves. You can always tell a sketch on SNL is written by Samberg or one of his Lonely Island teammates because they are random, try too hard, and are unfunny because of both.
Now Samberg, co-star Jorma Taccone, and director Akiva Schaffer have infected my neighborhood multiplex with Hot Rod, which… is completely random, tries too hard, and is unfunny because of both. Some compare Hot Rod to Napoleon Dynamite, but I wouldn’t. I dislike Samberg, but not THAT much. Sure Hot Rod is condescending to its main character, but everyone else is let off the hook. Napoleon Dynamite hated everyone in it and hated YOU for watching it. Hot Rod is just dull. Napoleon Dynamite is actually excruciating.
Samberg stars as Rod Kimble who is the Michael Brown of stuntmen. The poor guy can’t even clear an RV jump with his moped. He strives to earn the respect of his stepfather Frank, which will only be given when Rod beats him in a fight. But Frank is diagnosed with a heart disease and doesn’t have much longer left. So Rod takes it upon himself to jump fifteen buses (one more than Eval Knieval) to raise fifty grand to get Frank healthy again… just so he can kick his ass.
When I read the synopsis after I saw the preview a couple of months ago, I giggled at the premise. And I’d have giggled more throughout the movie, to be sure, had we spent any time with it. But we are treated to random montages and musical breaks that have nothing to do with anything, really. Hot Rod takes the position that anything from the eighties is just funny all on its lonesome without any kind of context whatsoever. Why is a Stryper song funny in this movie? Is it just because it’s a song by a crummy eighties hair band? Could something funny have been happening OVER the song, perhaps? Would that have been too much to ask?
But a couple of giggles can be had in the film. It’s funny that the guy I can’t stand on SNL is teaming up in a movie with the one guy who could save it if they gave him more airtime. Yes, folks, I AM talking about Bill Hader. He plays Dave, the stoner mechanic for Rod’s crew. He’s always interesting to watch, but it seems that he’s trying to dig to the margins of the script to find something to do because he looks trapped. But the part where he was dropped off at the hospital made me laugh quite a bit.
And there are other folks as well that are worth mentioning. In a choice that defies both nature AND God, Sissy Spacek plays Rod’s mom. But she was in An American Haunting last year, so this really shouldn’t surprise me. Isla Fisher of Wedding Crashers plays Rod’s crush Denise. She is VERY pretty and VERY talented… elsewhere. Here she just look pained, the poor thing. Wil Arnett from Arrested Development is her boyfriend and he continues to beg to be put into a good movie and no, we still aren’t listening.
But I saved the worst for last. Hi, Andy. Sorry, I’m late. Every last fiber of his being is spent in Hot Rod trying to get us to love him… no, not his character. HIM. Andy Samberg. He is under the impression that he is somehow funny based on his presence alone. He mugs, he preens, he does everything except make the attempt to be funny. It comes off like he feels he is above playing the character of a loveable romantic nerd like Rod Kimble. And the more ostentatiously geeky he makes him, the more cool he looks.
Because apparently Samberg’s “coolness” OBVIOUSLY DEFEATS Rod’s douchiness…
** out of 4