‘Hot Rod (2007)’: Throwback Review

There’s always something about 2007’s Hot Rod that I always come back to. I can put on a clip and will laugh all the way to the bank. Despite making a lot of money at the box office and got negative reviews at the time of its release, this is one of those comedies more should embrace a decade after it came out. For fans of The Lonely Island, it’s like a requirement to like this because it’s not too legit to quit.

What’s the Story: Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) has always wanted to be the best stuntman in the world, especially when he wants to follow in his late father’s footsteps. All he wants out of life is to defeat his stepdad Frank (Ian McShane) in a fight, but that might not happen when he becomes ill and needs a heart operation. To raise the money, he needs the help of his crew-Dave (Bill Hader), Rico (Danny McBride), Kevin (Jorma Taccone), and Denise (Isla Fisher)- to train him to jump fifteen school buses and raise $50,000.

Andy Samberg in Hot Rod (2007)

Why do I think Hot Rod is a good comedy? Well, this was released around the time where I was very interested in Saturday Night Live, and I was just looking for the kind of comedies that didn’t require brains to make sense. This was also the last movie my sister and I saw before school started with me about to attend fifth grade. It was back at a time where my opinions differed sometimes, but I remembered having fun with Akiva Schaffer’s directorial debut. Yet, I always knew this wasn’t going to be liked by critics since it currently holds a 39% on Rotten Tomatoes with a 64% Audience Score. Normally, I would tend to agree with certain reviews from those critics, but this is one of those rare cases I don’t since it deserves to be called a cult classic.

This was Andy Samberg’s first big movie role when he was just in his second year on Saturday Night Live, and what better way than to do a movie where he gets to do a feature film with his best buddies. It was also back when he had his long hair. Rod is this amateur stuntman whose work isn’t the best when almost every single one of them is weak, especially when riding on a moped and wears a cape, but you have to admire his confidence in still believing himself at any cost. Even though he’s just doing this so he can kick Frank’s ass in a fight, his optimism keeps his strength alive, making him a sympathetic character to root for through the end. His performance isn’t anything to be Oscar-worthy, but it’s always a role worth remembering from somebody like Samberg. 

Andy Samberg in Hot Rod (2007)

Hot Rod’s premise is very simple to understand, but that’s all you need to be entertained. Since this came out in the 2000s, it would’ve been the perfect vehicle for someone like Will Ferrell to star in since he was in sports movie around that time, but he instead served as an executive producer. Everything in here is not to be taken seriously. Nearly every joke relation is getting us to the next scene without asking too many questions about what occurred before. Let me tell you it’s for anybody who wants to become a stuntman like Evel Knievel, unless you want to go for the small stunts to not get yourself seriously injured. Schaffer’s first time behind the camera shows he can make a fast-paced comedy at the drop of a hat, though I can see why most wouldn’t understand this style he brought with his editing choices and not showcases his shots to be held on the highest mental. Honestly, his best work as a director comes from the underrated Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping with Taccone, but this is his second-best effort when his name shouldn’t have been associated with the 2012 bomb The Watch

As for the rest of the supporting cast in here to bounce off as Samberg, you couldn’t ask for a better ensemble to represent the movie well. Bill Hader as Dave, the mechanic, will always be the funniest one of the bunch, and I heard he based his character on a guy he went to high school with, especially with the piece of metal flying into his eye; Danny McBride as Rico, who builds the ramps, is playing himself and this was when I was already getting a bit old, but it worked, and fellow Lonely Island member Jorma Taccone as Kevin, Rod’s half-brother who’s also team manager/ cameraman, gets some laughs in it. I also bought the chemistry that blossomed between Isla Fisher’s Denise and Samberg, since he has always had a crush on her. 

Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Jorma Taccone, and Andy Samberg in Hot Rod (2007)

I think if you’ve been a fan of the style of comedy The Lonely Island are known for with their slapstick humor, then you’ll have no problem with laughing at how absurd many of the jokes are in this. If you someone who requires the smart kind of writing with your comedies, chances are you will hate sitting through the short 88 minutes. So many random gags that don’t make a lick of sense when watching, but there’s always memorable. For me, I knew what I was expecting from the beginning, and its effort at making me laugh worked throughout. They’re dumb, but it’s humorous. Just the scene where Rod is dancing in the forest dancing like he’s Kevin Bacon in Footloose was a reference I didn’t get back then since I haven’t seen it yet, followed by him falling down a mountain for 40 seconds. Or when Rod and Kevin were saying “cool beans” to each other, and it turned into a remix. It was strange, yet it’s been stuck in my mind by how bizarre it was.

The music was pretty good too. Some of the songs came from the rock group Europe, which isn’t a bad thing, including “Rock the Night” during the montage, “Time Has Come,” and “Danger on the Track.” And its inclusion of John Farnham’s “You’re the Voice” was just funny when it suddenly goes into a riot in the middle.

Ian McShane and Andy Samberg in Hot Rod (2007)

Is this the most perfect movie in the world? No, and I’m also not saying it’s one of the best comedies to come out that year. Duh. Pam Brady (South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Team America: World Police)’s screenplay wasn’t breaking any new grounds. Like I said, most of the humor is dumb but still funny. There are a few instances where it was pain stupid and wasn’t funny at all. It’s also predictable to where you already have a feeling how the outcome will be handled, and there should’ve been more of emotional weight to the story without something funny to run it through the ground.

Hod Rod’s random humor and the formulaic story will be a massive turnoff for many people who will look at this as the dumbest movies to come out. While it is, I’m not afraid to consider this not only as a guilty pleasure but a little underrated that should get a second chance. It’s a misunderstood comedy that doesn’t take itself seriously enough to get a ton of laughs, and the performance of Samberg in his first leading role brings it home. The three movies to best describe this are Billy Madison, Wet Hot American Summer, and Napoleon Dynamite, respectively. If you’re looking for something to watch to make your day a little better, it’s worth checking out.

Grade: B

Hot Rod Movie Poster

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