Review in a Hurry: SNL golden boy Andy Samberg makes the leap from small screen to big, and nearly falls on his face. Actually, he falls a lot in Hot Rod, but this stuntman farce simply isn't worth falling for.
The Bigger Picture: For Rod Kimble (our brave Samberg), every day is another opportunity to prove his worth as a stuntman. And every day is another opportunity to fail miserably, spectacularly, and painfully.
Rod works through the pain, because he has something to live up to: He aspires to be like dear old dad, who, legend has it, died working as Evel Knievel's assistant. And yet, Rod still can't even fight his stepfather Frank (Ian McShane), despite being half his age. When Frank's heart starts to fail, Rod is determined to raise money for a transplant by planning to jump 15 buses on his rickety moped. Why? So he can still have a chance to finally kick Frank's ass. (Aw, the love!)
There's a lot of talent in Hot Rod, including McShane, SNL alum such as Chris Parnell and the wonderfully game Sissy Spacek.
But Samberg's Rod is the star, the hero, and he inexplicably pushes us away. The character is a facade of quirky stubbornness, cartoonish gestures and immature acts, a vaudeville act, not a three-dimensional, emotional human being. There's something strangely distant about him.
For this reason, the romance between Rod and comely neighbor Denise (Isla Fisher) doesn't work. The attraction is purely manufactured by plot.
Hot Rod aims to be an eccentric Anchorman-like comedy, full of excellent slapstick and outstanding performances, but it just misses tickling the funny bone. It feels like Samberg, Parnell and their SNL cohorts thought themselves too hip to let any sentimental character stuff get in the way of the wise-ass laughs.
The 180—a Second Opinion: The real behind-the-scenes stuntguys more than earned their pay here, creating some literally gut-busting moments of pure slapstick. Physical comedy hasn't played this well in years.