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HD DVD Review: Hot Rod

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Hot Rod comes close. It has the right elements, funny cast, and absurd irreverent style. It never feels cohesive though, and scenes have a random timing to them that comes off disjointed. You’ll laugh, yet not as hard as you should.

SNL star Andy Samberg takes his first big screen role as Rod Kimble, a man with only one thing on his mind: earn enough money so he can afford a heart transplant for his stepfather… so he can beat him in a fight. There’s little question this is as off the wall as they come, complete with parodies of Footloose, human piñatas, and Ebenezer Scrooge (don’t ask).

How far you’re willing to let the movie go will depend on how long you laugh. Memorable moments are typically tied to Kimble nearly killing himself, including a truly unforgettable long fall down a hill that lasts nearly a minute. The majority of the characters are idiots, perfect for their inclusion in Kimble’s delusional scheme to jump 15 buses on a moped.

Physical laughs are the best Hot Rod has to offer. The dialogue features a few winners, while the rest of it misses the mark entirely. The perfect scene to illustrate this is “cool beans,” which is a genuine attempt to be funny, but ends up a sequence better off fast forwarding through.

Further dragging down Hot Rod is a lack of flow. Scenes feel randomly inserted or edited into the movie with no bearing on the previous scene. It’s jarring and distracting, though arguably in tone with the film’s style.

Hot Rod is a movie you’ll want to love, and you’ll root for it to find its heart. Samberg can carry a comedy, and this is a solid vehicle to launch his film career. This is one that never seems to find its footing to truly grab its audience.

The film looks decent in HD. The transfer is clean, free of most imperfections. Colors are bold, rich, and gorgeous. It’s the smaller details that never come through, such as on clothing or facial close-ups. It looks flat or possibly even over-processed.

This Dolby TrueHD mix has a chance to shine during the finale. With explosions, a crowd cheering, and Rod’s engine roaring, it leads a full audio package. The subwoofer will get a workout before hand thanks to the classic rock soundtrack, and Rod’s constant falls that deliver a solid “thud” every time he lands, incorrectly or not.

Extras are varied and at times funnier than the movie. Ancestors Protect Me is an eight minute behind-the-scenes look at the film. Here the cast and crew rip on Samberg as their third choice to play the lead role and how much better it could have been if someone else was given the chance. Same goes for the fun commentary from director Akiva Schaffer, Samberg, and Jorma Taccone.

Outtakes run over three minutes, providing some improv dialogue and a few screw ups. Fifteen deleted scenes run around 14 minutes, including a piece to a different opening that seems like a perfect fit for the finished product. Kevin’s Videos are full clips from the Stuntman movie shown in one scene during Hot Rod.

Punch Dance is a direct comparison to the Footloose parody, featuring picture-in-picture as Kevin Bacon goes to town on one side, and stunt doubles play Samberg in the other. Home video footage of the orchestra recording the theme is a little under two minutes and provides, well, nothing of value.

Will Ferrell was the original choice for the role, but was obviously too busy elsewhere. Dane Cook landed the spot, and he was then rejected. Ferrell was probably the best of the three (it’s his style of comedy), but Samberg has enough to pull this one off.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.