It’s hard to believe that it has only been six years since today’s installment of the universally-praised series 73 Sports Movies in 73+ Days, Hot Rod, first hit theaters. Whenever it shows up on Comedy Central, it just seems like it’s a much older movie, at least from the late-90s era of “Jesus, Hollywood will make anything.” But despite its flaws and poor production value, I like Hot Rod. At least I think I do. I’m pretty sure that I do.
I mean, I watch it when it comes on Comedy Central, but then most of the time I end up leaving the room and doing yardwork or trying to figure out what I should eat for dinner. And it’s always on in the afternoon, so that tells us that 1) My overeating knows no bounds if I’m planning dinner at 1 PM, and 2) For a movie that I think I like, I sure seem to lose interest in it quickly.
So for today’s 73 Sports Movies in 73+ Days installment, I’ve decided to watch Hot Rod yet again and try to figure out if I actually like it or not.
Before I get into this, I’d just like to thank the fine folks at Netflix for creating a streaming site that crashed every three minutes on me today. The 88-minute movie that I wanted to watch ended up taking me more than two hours to finish. It’s nice to know that as the vultures pick the meat from Blockbuster’s corpse, there’s a company willing to pick up the asinine torch. I still love you, Netflix, but today blew. For real.
The Parts That I Know I Liked
I’d been a fan of The Lonely Island since the early days, specifically when I first saw the Nintendo video that they made, but for the sake of an entire movie, the presence of extra comedic star power is always helpful. In this case, they had Bill Hader, Danny McBride and Chris Parnell in supporting roles, which is a great formula for success. Your script could be 120 pages of people making fart noises with their mouths, and those three would probably make at least a third of the film tolerable.
The best character in Hot Rod, however, is the stepfather Frank, played by the always awesome and grizzled Ian McShane. Watching him beat the crap out of Andy Samberg was a real treat on many levels, but it was more enjoyable because McShane just seems like a great guy to have on your side in any kind of fight.
Of course, the greatest weakness of this film is its script, which is evidenced by multiple scenes that seemed like they were intentionally drawn out for the sake of making Hot Rod just a little bit longer. That was great news for Parnell, though, because that guy could have a role in a silent film and still manage to have the best lines. In the case of Hot Rod, that line was:
“I’m not saying that kiss was hot, listeners, but if the boner police are here, I demand a lawyer.”
I’ve often cried foul that Parnell doesn’t have his own TV show or he isn’t a movie star in his own right, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that he’s the ultimate cameo guy. So with that said – what the sh*t, Hollywood? Cast Chris Parnell in more stuff, okay?
What About That Whole Sports Aspect Thingy?
Oh yeah. Well, Samberg plays Rod Kimble, an aspiring small town stuntman who is downright terrible at what he does. He’s also a grown man with the mind of a child, and he’s really quite terrified of everything, from his actual stunts and physically fighting his stepfather for acceptance to speaking to girls and even dressing as an adult. Seriously, I love the necktie with a polo look:
Unlike some of the other movies that I’ve rewatched for this series, Hot Rod isn’t a film about a sport, as much as it’s a series of sketches tied together by the common theme – a wannabe athlete. In fact, I wouldn’t even call this a series of sketches. It’s more like a series of vague music videos and dance routines tied together with the idea that the main character thinks he’s a daredevil.
Again, Hot Rod is a very confusing movie, but I’m pretty sure I like it.
So What Are Some Of The Things I Don’t Like?
Like I already said, this is a film that should be 60 minutes long, but in order to make it a full feature film, Samberg and Co. stretched it out with several very unnecessary scenes and by making several simple and effective scenes way longer than they needed to be. Example No. 1:
I’d like to start out by saying that the one subtle line, “Pools are perfect for holding water, man” is one of the best lines of this movie, because Hader is just a simple comedic genius. And almost everything else about this scene is fantastic, except for the bell ringing. It seems like an outtake that was left in either because the film’s editor left to get a soda or they needed an extra 15 seconds. However, so I don’t seem like I’m complaining too much, Hader’s random bark made it hilarious again. He has a tendency to do that.
Example No. 2: This bit that has been done to death.
When I saw this movie in the theater back in 2007, some no good punk kids sitting behind me made a very good point about this safe word scene, although I hated knowing inside of my brain that he was right. Wasn’t this just the Family Guy “Cool hWhip” scene packaged differently? But I won’t give the credit to Family Guy, because I know it’s been done well before that show, too. Similar jokes are no big deal, but a joke that’s older than time? Come on, Island, you’re better than that.
Example No. 3: “BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAABE!”
Will Arnett’s ultimate bro-bag character is just as great as his other classics (GOB Bluth and Devon Banks) because he basically plays the same character in everything he does. That’s not a knock, because Arnett is fantastic, even if he’s foolish enough to let Amy Poehler get away. But this “BABE WAIT!” routine goes from charming to SHUT THE F*CK UP ALREADY in a matter of seconds. It’s like my great-grand uncle George Burns once said, “Too much of a good joke is too much. Also, I’m not your great-grand uncle and I never said this.”
The Scene That Is Just Plain Awful
All of that stuff I just wrote about jokes being dragged out or horseshoed into a scene for the sake of making the film longer? Yeah, this scene is all of that times a million. It’s like the worst Lonely Island sketch ever made, abandoned on the cutting room floor before the comedy group even had a cutting room, and crammed back into the film because Samberg and Jorma Taccone voted 2-1 over Akiva Schaffer to keep it.
The Scene That Makes No Sense
One of my favorite scenes in the previously-reviewed One Crazy Summer was the montage of Hoops and the fellas passing out flyers and playing the cartoon for Cassandra’s big show at the Dew Drop Inn. That’s essentially what this scene was supposed to be, except it lacked any charm and originality, and it simply turned into a sort of inside joke. That’s the only conclusion that I can come to, because I have no clue who the dancing guy is or why he’s supposed to be funny. But he just keeps dancing and I think it’s just obnoxious.
So What You’re Saying Is This Movie Is Just Horrible?
No, not at all. Because even as I’m complaining that some of the jokes run on too long at the expense of the punchlines, I thought this inspirational-march-turned-full-on-riot scene was fantastic. Perhaps it was the use of John Farnham’s “You’re the Voice” or maybe it’s just because it didn’t feel forced and downright ridiculous. Well, it was obviously downright ridiculous, but in the intentional way. Not the “Holy shit, why are these guys dragging this crap out?” way.
Basically, what it boils down to is the good outweighing the bad. For every drawn out joke, there’s Bill Hader tripping on acid, pointing at a trash can and asking, “Hospital?” and for every odd Samberg/Taccone bit that seems out of place, there’s McShane beating the piss out of Samberg or Danny McBride screaming about green tea while beating a guy’s ass with a parking cone or Isla Fisher wearing a really tight shirt and making adorable faces.
God, I hate you so much sometimes, Sacha Baron Cohen.
More than anything, Hot Rod has a perfect ending, and sometimes offbeat comedy films like this forget to resolve anything for the sake of just getting to the end so everyone can get paid.
Final Grade: 5/5 spirit animals