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Blu-ray Review: Hot Rod

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The Film

Hot Rod
begins with Saturday Night Live resident jackass Andy Samberg taking his moped off a wooden ramp and ramming his face into the ground. It’s not funny. And yet, there are at least seven more variations of this exact scene yet to come in what is a very long 87 minutes.

You know those films that would have worked better as a five-minute sketch? This isn’t one of them. Compressing Hot Rod down to its good parts would leave you with a 12-second clip of Cutting Crew’s immortal power ballad “(I Just) Died in Your Arms.” No one expects intelligent humor from a film like this, but is it too much to ask for any humor at all?

Samberg stars as Rod Kimble, an aspiring stuntman whose father was the true genius behind Evel Knievel. Now, Rod wants nothing more than to emulate dad’s daring heroics, but he doesn’t quite have the chops. To make matters worse, Rod is constantly getting his ass kicked by stepdad Frank (Ian McShane, Deadwood). Until Rod can beat him up, Frank refuses to respect him.

This kind of misguided, meatheaded behavior ought to offer some kind of opportunity for parody, but instead we get Rod palling around with his idiot friends (Bill Hader, Danny McBride) and soft-spoken stepbrother Kevin (Jorma Taccone), discussing hilarious topics like who likes to party more. Rod also tries to win the affections of pretty next-door neighbor Denise (Isla Fisher, Wedding Crashers) away from her yuppie boyfriend Jonathan (Will Arnett, never more obnoxious).

When Rod comes home one day to find Frank suffering from a life-threatening heart condition, he’s determined to raise the $50,000 necessary to save his life, so he doesn’t miss out on the chance to beat him up. Rod has never successfully completed a stunt in his life, but he and his “crew” decide a bus-jumping extravaganza is the ticket to raising the money. The underwhelming finale proves that Samberg’s physical comedy is just not funny, no matter what scale it’s on.

Hot Rod is relentlessly stupid, and its attempts at some kind of kitschy ‘80s nostalgia don’t hide that fact. Samberg, who can’t even be consistently funny with his SNL Digital Shorts, has no business headlining a movie.

The Blu-ray Disc

Keeping in line with its low-budget ‘80s sensibility, Hot Rod isn’t a remarkable Blu-ray transfer. The film is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen and 1080p, but there is still plenty of grain and little extra sharpness or color definition. Paramount, an early backer of HD DVD, is now ramping up the re-releases in Blu-ray, but it’s rather obvious not a lot of extra work is being put into them. (See Special Features).

The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD, which is more than capable of handling this dialogue-heavy mix.

Special Features

Other than the new format, this is the exact same release as the DVD and HD DVD. The same special features are here, including a commentary track with director Akiva Schaffer, Samberg, and Taccone, deleted and extended scenes and outtakes. Aside from the trailer, all of the features remain in standard definition.

The Bottom Line

I found Hot Rod insufferable, and it’s utterly absurd that some are bandying it around as the next cult classic, but even if Samberg’s shtick is your thing, there’s little reason for a Blu-ray purchase.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.