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Hot Rod

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I originally passed up "Hot Rod" when it came out as it seemed like it would just be overly dumb. Due to Andy Samberg's hilarious supporting role in "I Love You, Man," bringing some of the only funny recent "Saturday Night Live" material, and his goofy charisma that essentially saved any entertainment value in this year's MTV Movie Awards, I hoped that Samberg leading "Hot Rod" would make it at least somewhat enjoyable. "Hot Rod" somehow manages to make every one of the very talented actors seem remedial. You can't really feel for any of the characters and there isn't even any genuine comedy, which seems to be the one thing that the film should have been able to achieve.

Rod Kimble, played by Andy Samberg, is a self-proclaimed amateur stuntman. His deceased father was a stuntman who worked alongside Evel Knievel, testing out the stunts before Knievel would attempt them. Rod's father was never recognized for his daring actions so Rod has taken it upon himself to expand on his father's legacy. He attempts reckless stunts every day, many of which are unsuccessful. Rod still lives with his mother, played by Sissy Spacek, and his stepfather, Frank, played by Ian McShane. His younger brother and manager of his crew, Kevin, played by Jorma Taccone, has Frank's unconditional love that Rod has been craving. Frank claims that the only way he will ever respect Rod is the day he beats him in a fight. Rod makes plenty of attempts to do this, but always ends up losing.

One day, Rod learns that Frank has been struggling with his health for the past 21 years and he is the only one in their family that didn't know about this. Without a $50,000 heart transplant, he will die. Frank is in too weak of a state to give Rod a fight and without the transplant he will just get weaker and weaker. Rod can't stand the thought of never getting respect from Frank. So he sets out to raise the money for his heart transplant to save him so he can beat him up in a fair fight. In order to do this, Rod films a video containing his stunts and holds a premiere to get the initial money he needs to jump 15 school buses to get enough donations for Frank's heart. A local AM radio station headed by Barry Pasternack, played by Chris Parnell, is sponsoring the event. It seems like Rod might have a chance if he can make the jump, if not he will clearly die trying.

"Hot Rod" includes such an incredible cast, yet none of them really stand out at all. I was hoping even if the material wasn't the best that the comedic personalities that these actors always seem to be able to project would still be entertaining. The role of Rod was originally meant to go to Will Ferrell. I think the age difference would have made it a little too over the top. There is still some believability with Samberg as he can still pass for a pretty young adult. Even regardless of this, it would have been too big of an upset for Ferrell to come out with a lackluster film like this so soon after "Taladega Nights." Aside from a few made-for-TV movies, this was really Samberg's first lead role in a major film. He has been one of the only funny actors left on "Saturday Night Live" in the last few years, but perhaps this comedic timing and flare just hadn't developed the longevity of a feature film yet. I am glad that since this film, Samberg has redeemed himself.

Even Bill Hader and Danny McBride's performances just fell flat. This was still before any of them were all that recognizable of names, so hopefully this at least put them on the map and enabled them to be a part of much more genuinely funny work shortly after. Chris Parnell wasn't very funny either, but to be fair, he was given particularly stale material. Sissy Spacek was underused in the remedial role of the mother. Ian McShane as Frank is simply over the top and there isn't much else to the character. Isla Fisher is charming as always and might have been the most enjoyable one to watch. Even in her case, she wasn't given enough to really hold the audience's attention.

"Hot Rod" wanted to be a goofy, fun, and an oddly sentimental comedy. It fell flat on all three counts. Rod is meant to trigger some sort of sentiment in the audience to feel a connection to him. Of course, we can't feel for him or any other character in the film as there is nothing to relate to. The film is not really goofy; it's just overly dumb in its attempt to be so. Some of the segments are just complete nonsense and that's supposed to be the comedy. This type of comedy actually can work wonderfully, but with the right material, which "Hot Rod" definitely lacks. Too often it's just flat out stupid and not even a fun way where you can laugh at how bizarre and idiotic the characters are. They are to an extent, but everything just feels so lifeless that it sucks any fun out of this.

Many times the jokes lag on for far too long. You can tell there's a lot of stretching out material. Director Akiva Schaffer originally worked with Samberg and Jorma Taccone, together known as the Lonely Island comedy team, on the short films that got the three of them involved with "Saturday Night Live." Schaffer has been accustomed to writing for the skit format. The only thing he has done since this, aside from "Saturday Night Live," is "Extreme Movie," so perhaps Schaffer still hasn't shown the comedic endurance suitable for a major feature film. The pacing and editing is really off as it feels like a lot of little segments were simply slapped together. "Hot Rod" is a very dull movie with essentially no laughs, wasting a cast that should have been able to bring forth comedic gold.