This final week of November brings with it a number of decent releases, but as far as A-list material goes, it's looking pretty thin. That isn't to say there isn't a title worthy of carrying the "DVD Pick of the Week" mantle, because there is. When you look down the list, there are definitely titles that are worthy of adding to your collection, just as there are titles that you will want to avoid like Kryptonite. Fortunately, I am here to wade through the list and bring to you the cream of the crop, and the occasional title to avoid.
This week's pick is none other than Hot Rod. Yes, you read that right. My choice for the number one pick of the week is a dumb comedy. It was ignored when it was in theaters and will likely be ignored to a large extent on DVD, but if you like weird goofy comedies, this is definitely one to check out.
As the promotional machine worked up the release of Hot Rod I was a big naysayer. I took a look at the trailer, the commercials, the stills, the poster, and a few other clips that made their way out onto the 'net and made up my mind. There was no way this movie was going to be good, there was a good chance that it wasn't even going to be funny. It just smacked of low-brow idiocy that wanted to be funny, and just wasn't. The bits just didn't seem to work, and none of the stuff I saw made me want to laugh. Now, after seeing Hot Rod, I am ready to retract my negativity.
Hot Rod is not a bad movie, as I had been so fully expecting it to be. The movie has a go for the gold gusto to it. It is sweetly innocent and wildly random in its execution. I found myself laughing through nearly the entire movie, sometimes in spite of myself. There is this infectious energy that envelopes the project, everyone involved fed off of this as they moved ahead. The actors threw themselves headlong into the story which actually treated its characters with respect. There is much foolishness to be had, but no one is treated as a fool; the script is not making fun of the characters so much as it is laughing along with them.
Saturday Night Live's Andy Samberg stars as Rod Kimble, a character that seems tailor made for a younger Will Ferrell. Kimble fancies himself a stuntman, complete with dreams of jumping the public pool, and following in the footsteps of his hero, his father. His father died when Kimble was young, his mother (Sissy Spacek) spun stories of his working with Evel Knievel, and the glory of a stuntman. This has set young Rod's life on a course where he will become famous, win the girl, and make his father proud. Also on his to do list is to win the respect of his stepfather (Ian McShane), which can only be won in hand to hand combat. This leads to numerous fights between the two, always resulting in Rod being beaten into submission.
There is never a day that goes by that Rod and his intrepid team don't try to jump over something, or break some sort of speed record. Of course, they are not all that good, no matter that they think they are brilliant. One day, Rod learns that his stepfather has a heart condition that is threatening his life. The idea that he will die without being beaten by Rod is unthinkable, so the stunt crew go to work to raise the money needed to get the heart transplant.
The story is really secondary to the characters and the laughs. It is the framework that allows us to have a reason to travel from point A to point B, but it is not what makes the movie work. What makes this movie work, first and foremost, is Andy Samberg. I am not terribly familiar with his SNL output, but her he delivers a sweet natured character that clings to his dreams and goes for the gusto. There is no pretense to him, not a mean bone in his body, and Samberg perfectly captures Rod Kimble, his never say die attitude. Then there is his interactions with the rest of the cast, including his would be girlfriend Denise, played by Isla Fisher, and his crew made up of half-brother Kevin (Jorma Taccone), Dave (Bill Hader), and Rico (Danny McBride).