It’s been a while since a Saturday Night Live movie has been something to get excited about. Ladies Man and Stuart Saves His Family weren’t exactly laugh riots but a new film, Hot Rod, starring Andy Samberg may bring back the funny to the sagging SNL brand.
In Hot Rod Samberg, the slacker comic behind Lazy Sunday, one of SNL’s most talked about pieces of recent years—it was downloaded over one million times the day after it originally aired—plays amateur stuntman Rod Kimble. He’s a terrible stuntman, but is possessed of an inordinate amount of confidence, which keeps his dream of becoming the next Evel Knievel alive.
His biggest problem is his stepfather Frank (Deadwood’s Ian McShane). Frank is an ex-Navy Seal who treats Rod like a punching bag. In their weekly sparring sessions, scheduled to toughen Rod up, Frank mercilessly beats the youngster with his fists and weapons like Rhodesian fighting sticks. Rod willingly submits to the punishment hoping that his fighting skills will impress Frank and earn his respect. When Frank falls ills before Rod has a chance to beat him the dare devil hatches a plan to perform his most incredible stunt to date and raise money for Frank’s lifesaving operation. Once Frank is healthy and healed Rod plans to beat the crap out of him.
It’s a strange little story, one that ten years ago would have starred Adam Sandler as the revenge happy stuntman. This time out it’s Samberg and while the comparisons to Sandler are obvious, he makes the character of Rod his own. He’s more bizarre than Sandler has ever been on screen, (with the possible exception of Little Nicky), but he’s also quite sweet. Sandler made his bones playing characters who flew into rages, Samberg’s style is more gentle. I don’t know if he has any range, but he fits this role like a glove.
Hot Rod is a very silly comedy. It stretches the frat pack style of humor to the limit, milking every joke for everything it is worth. For instance, a scene where Rod falls down a mountain lasts forever. It’s funny at first, then not so funny, and then funny again just because of the sheer commitment the movie has to its gags. It’s not for everyone, but the audience I saw it with ate it up.
Hot Rod is a throwback to the SNL-inspired movies of yesteryear like Billy Madison. It’s childish and harebrained but it will make you laugh.