Thursday, 27 September 2007

Hot Rod - Review by Joseph Wren

Director: Akiva Schaffer
Screenwriter: Pam Brady
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Certificate: 12A
Released: 28 September

Once a rejected Will Ferrell project, Hot Rod was recovered by Saturday Night Live writer Akiva Schaffer and revived as fellow SNL writer/cast member Andy Samberg’s big screen debut. An Emmy-winning comedic parody writer with an image somewhere between Napoleon Dynamite and Ashton Kutcher, Samberg lacks much acting talent or originality; his confidently goofy style lies in a valley between SNL alumni Adam Sandler and the aforementioned Ferrell.

Hot Rod follows Rod Kimble’s main ambitions in life – to become a great stuntman, as his late father was believed to have been - and to beat up his stepfather. When cantankerous stepdad Frank (Ian McShane) is in need of a heart transplant, Rod vows to raise the money for the operation by performing a record jump over school buses. Not because he wants to save Frank’s life, but because he wants a fair shot at kicking his old man’s ass. Donning a Hulkamania t-shirt, bandana, and tight ripped jeans, Rod inexplicably attracts the affections of girl next door Denise (Isla Fisher), who is dating evil lawyer Jonathan (Will Arnett). To train, impress the girl, and raise money, Rod becomes stuntman-for-hire, and immolates, suffocates, bludgeons, and generally beats the hell out of himself in what is intended to be slapstick comic hilarity. It’s the kind of humour which has its place in comedy, but instead of aspiring to be Buster Keaton, Samberg seems to be reaching for Rob Schneider.

There’s nothing about Andy Samberg that gives him any comedic distinction, which serves his parody-driven sketch comedy just fine but lacks a singular identity to carry a feature-length film. Basically Napoleon Dynamite doing Jackass stunts, Hot Rod is quite obnoxious, insincere, narcissistic, and most fatally unfunny.

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