Review: Hot Rod (2007)

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Hot Rod (2007)

Directed by: Akiva Schaffer | 88 minutes | action, comedy, romance | Actors: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Bill Hader, Danny R. McBride, Isla Fisher, Sissy Spacek, Ian McShane, Will Arnett, Chris Parnell, Chester Tam, Mark Acheson, Brittany Tiplady, Ken Kirzinger, Brittney Irvin, Alana Husband, Andrew Moxham, Terri O’Neill, Alvin Sanders

Rod is a loser who still lives with his parents, has no job and has even bigger losers as friends. At least, that’s how many see him. He also makes it difficult for everyone to see this differently, because he drives around on an old Puch-like moped (not even tuned), with which he performs all kinds of ‘stunts’, which also fail. Yet he continues, because he believes in his dream. As is often the case in comedy, this is essentially a serious and interesting theme that can take you anywhere. With dedication a bunch of credible types are put down who are actually people of flesh and blood, because they are never too exaggerated, except maybe Rod’s parents, wonderfully played by Ian McShane and Sissy Spacek. The other roles are also not or hardly inferior to the main role and are even better here and there. The humor is not always completely clear, too subtle? Or not? Bad for ‘insiders’, whoever they may be, Americans perhaps?

This is satire, and satire is by definition more subtle than slapstick or other wacky humor. So it must lie to you. In the tradition of Ben Stiller, who also made a name for himself in ‘Saturday Night Live’, newcomer Andy Samberg presents a nice boy, with a moderately weird character and above all many typical mannerisms. Hilarious is the very widely measured ‘fall’ of a mountain. Moments like this could have been more. The subject matter and the elaboration are reminiscent of several of Will Ferrell’s films, especially one of his last films ‘Talladega Nights’. However, in the comparison, the actor Samberg and his film respectively lose out to the above. ‘Talladega Nights’ (which didn’t make it to the cinema in the Netherlands) is better developed and old hand Ferrell is simply funnier. Samberg’s humor is also quintessentially American. In his debut film, he cannot always be followed in his humor. Would it be suitable for the European market?

‘Hot Rod’ radiates a late eighties atmosphere, probably the youth of the makers. In essence, the story is also about a little boy in an adult jacket. The music, nice old-fashioned American hard rock with synthesizers, contributes positively to the era. It all feels good, the actors are doing a good job, so to speak, and the makers clearly had fun making this film. The story is essentially cliché (boy wins girl by following his dream), but the ‘morality’ isn’t overstated or exaggerated. Yet there are hardly any moments of real laughter. That would have been more. Or have we not quite understood it?

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