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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Hot Rod (review)

The wisdom of that modern philosopher David St. Hubbins has never been so apropos as it is here: There really is a fine line between clever and stupid, and the Hot Rod guys are on the wrong side of it. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a comedy troupe acclaimed for their short-form video goofings and nothing else, the Lonely Island guys — here, star Andy Samberg, costar Jorma Taccone, and director Akiva Schaffer — don’t meet a joke they can’t ruin by being utterly obvious about it, or that they can’t beat to death by letting it drag on way too long, as if they’re desperate to pad out their running time to something that can decently be called “feature length,” and as if the audience is as stupid as their “heroes.” Seriously, I don’t mean to make fun of people who are genuinely mentally retarded when I say that I honestly thought, at first, that Samberg’s Rod Kimble, stuntman wannabe, was supposed to be retarded. I mean: He wears a cape with his name amateurishly stitched onto the back. As street clothes. He tells his pretty neighbor, Denise (Isla Fisher: Wedding Crashers), that she “looks pretty,” and when she says, “What?” because he mumbled it, he “covers up” for himself by replying, “You look shitty.” (Oddly enough, this actually works as charm, because poor 30ish Denise is somehow roped in by his pre-toilet-training humor.) Perhaps this disastrous excuse for a comedy is best seen as an example of the tragedies of American health care Sicko woke us up to: Rod’s only option for raising the money his stepfather (Ian McShane: We Are Marshall) needs for a heart transplant is to attempt a massive stunt in which he jumps… well, it’s not a shark, but it might as well be.

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MPAA: rated PG-13 for crude humor, language, some comic drug-related and violent content

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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  • MBI

    How many crotch shots?

  • MaryAnn

    You mean groin-injury jokes? Actually, only one, which surprised me.

  • MBI

    Well that’s not nearly enough. I thought, what with a couple brilliant sequences in “Idiocracy” and “Casino Royale,” that we were seeing a new creative renaissance to the nut shot. Apparently not, if “Hot Rod” can’t even be bothered to include more than one.

  • anonymouscoward

    Wow, that was probably the dumbest review I’ve ever read..perhaps falling on the same wrong side of the line between cleverness and stupidity that the author accuses the hot rod “guys” of. Beating jokes to death? Letting the joke drag on too long? That IS the joke.
    Sometimes parodical, sometimes nonsensical, and always totally off the wall, cutting edge is what this film was. The fact that this went completely over your head is not really a surprise, but the next time you lazily assume a character is “genuinely mental retarded”, you should probably double check your grammar.

    Dont quit your day job, which hopefully, doesn’t entail reviewing things.

    -anon

  • MaryAnn

    Beating jokes to death? Letting the joke drag on too long? That IS the joke.

    If you say so.

    The fact that this went completely over your head is not really a surprise,

    I think it went under my head, but you are of course entitled to disagree.

    but the next time you lazily

    How did I do this “lazily”?

    assume a character is “genuinely mental retarded”, you should probably double check your grammar.

    Thank you for the advice. Yes, typos are generally considered evidence of mental retardation. But thank you, too, for pointing out my typo. I’ve fixed it now.

    Dont quit your day job, which hopefully, doesn’t entail reviewing things.

    It does. This is one of my day jobs. Sorry to disappoint you.

  • MBI

    You know what’s better than witty responses to dumb trolls? Kicking them in the crotch.

    As a side note, I haven’t seen the film yet. But if what’s supposedly so cutting-edge and off-the-wall is that the joke is that they “beat the joke to death” and “let it go on too long,” I’m very glad I haven’t. Anti-comedy comedy is fucking played out, it was played out when I was in high school. Except for those who still think that making an intentionally bad joke and then fake-laughing at it is still the height of wit, I don’t see how you’ve made much of a case for the movie here.

  • anonymouscoward

    For the record, I’d like to know exactly what was so “obvious” in the jokes..or why the author believes that every joke in the movie was “beaten to death”.

    Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe things like the punch dancing sequence followed by long fall/epiphany
    has been seen many times before. Or the positive community support scene devolving into a looting/riot scene… also done many times before? OR, maybe they were parodies of things seen many times before. Just maybe. Either way..funny as hell, in my opinion. And the two times I saw it in the independent theater in my town…gauging by the audience’s roaring laughter..they thought it was pretty funny too. But I bet these were all part of that ‘stupid’ audience demographic the author must be referring to.

    And MBI, maybe someday you’ll get to form an opinion of your own, and not one that was hand fed to you.
    Till then, you can religiously cling to reviews of movies like this one…claiming that “anti comedy comedy” (whatever that is) is played out. If high school is your holy barometer for what’s considered funny, great for you man…I’d recommend staying away from Hot Rod. Go watch “Are we there yet?” instead, starring ice cube. Warning: hilarious high jinks involved! You’d probably even “get” the comedy!

    -dumb troll out

  • MBI

    ***And MBI, maybe someday you’ll get to form an opinion of your own, and not one that was hand fed to you. ***

    I disagree with Maryann quite frequently, honestly. I do suspect I would agree with her review, based not only on the incredibly unimpressive trailers but also on Samberg’s previous work. (Lazy Sunday sucks, y’all.)

    ***”anti comedy comedy” (whatever that is)***

    That, pretty obviously, is where it’s supposed to be funny because it isn’t funny. Examples would be beating the jokes to death and letting them go on too long. It isn’t a new concept. You see it all the time in the newer, lousier seasons of Family Guy. It isn’t funny there, and you’re not making a great case for it here.

    *** If high school is your holy barometer for what’s considered funny, great for you man***

    The idea was that high school was a very low benchmark which this movie could not even clear. Sorry if I failed to communicate that concept, but I’m always happy to clarify.

    ***For the record, I’d like to know […] why the author believes that every joke in the movie was “beaten to death”***

    Didn’t you already admit this was true? Wasn’t the fact that they beat the joke to death “the joke”?

  • anonymouscoward

    ***(Lazy Sunday sucks, y’all.)***
    Ah. Say no more.
    That is a pretty unique viewpoint…considering y’all is referring to the three other people on the planet who *didn’t* find lazy sunday funny, I’ll let that be. If you cant even be bothered to laugh at something as funny as lazy sunday, gods help you in your quest to revive that tiny, shriveled up, ice cold funny organ.

    On anti-comedy comedy —
    While the term may be “obvious” in the MBI school of thought, there are several different interpretations one could surmise based on the wording. But, I’ll humor you. I’m not a big fan of it. Never really liked family guy, for pretty much the same reasons you stated. There are very few times where that formula works…and hot rod doesn’t use it. Things in hot rod are funny because they are funny.
    As far as “beating the joke to death” goes…

    ***Didn’t you already admit this was true? Wasn’t the fact that they beat the joke to death “the joke”?***

    Of course I admit this was true. MaryAnn’s contention however, was that EVERY joke in the film is one of the following two: a.) beaten to death or b.) “obvious”.

    That’s misleading. EVERY joke? I remember two instances where the joke was “beaten to death” and that was done intentionally, with very funny results through clever editing. That’s two. Unless those two jokes went on for 90 minutes, the review implied that’s all the movie was.

    Have you actually seen a movie or television show that made you laugh recently? How about ever? Because I’m curious to know how much of the jack and the beanstalk sized pole from your rear you’d have to extricate to get you to chuckle.
    -anon

    p.s. accusing someone of being a troll because they post a comment on a review site is pretty lame. I legitimately(as opposed to illegitimately?)read this review, and almost didn’t see the movie because of it. Thought I’d say something about it.

    -trolly Mctrollerson

  • MaryAnn

    Maybe things like the punch dancing sequence followed by long fall/epiphany has been seen many times before. Or the positive community support scene devolving into a looting/riot scene… also done many times before? OR, maybe they were parodies of things seen many times before. Just maybe.

    Or maybe some other folks might have found these things funny if the filmmakers did not drag them on long past the point at which they inspire some of those other folks to want to bang their heads against walls.

    See, that’s the fine line between clever and stupid. Samberg et al crossed it, more than once.

    Either way..funny as hell, in my opinion. And the two times I saw it in the independent theater in my town…gauging by the audience’s roaring laughter..they thought it was pretty funny too.

    Bully for them. I gauge a movie by my own reactions, not those of an audience around me. Even if 99.99 percent of everyone on the planet thought something was funny, if I didn’t, I’d still say I didn’t. Any film critic who would do anything else is being less than honest with you.

  • MBI

    ***Because I’m curious to know how much of the jack and the beanstalk sized pole from your rear you’d have to extricate to get you to chuckle. ***

    I like Aqua Teen. And, full disclosure, Dick in a Box. Also that Charlie Chaplin’s a funny guy.

    If I hurt your feelings with the troll thing, I sincerely apologize and retract the statement. My reasoning was that your response was the “No, YOU’RE stupid” tenor of your post. Not enough for the “troll” label? I say it’s borderline, but I’ll retract my defamatory statement in the interest of fairness.

    ***While the term may be “obvious” in the MBI school of thought, there are several different interpretations one could surmise based on the wording. ***

    Well, that’s why we have context clues.

  • shaukat ali sultan

    send some new

  • amanohyo

    Hello? Hello? New what? Did the villain discover you radioing for help moments before you could relay your vital intel? I told you it was too dangerous. You damn fool, I never had a chance to tell you… I… I’m the one that gave your hamster that awful perm. Are you still there? Shaukat? Shaaaauuuukaaaaaat!!!

  • Farquar

    The joke “goes on too long” and “beats it to death” because it’s not meant to be a conventional moment, it’s meant to *deconstruct* the conventional moment…so yes, it did go over, and not under, your head. In regards to the “you look shitty” line–it was an efficient JOKE meant to show that Rod was emotionally underdeveloped. It’s a silly comedy, it’s not meant to be taken or considered as a serious piece of work…perhaps the filmmakers didn’t realize that their audience would need multiple lines of witty dialogue and six different scenes before we’re meant to understand that Rod is socially inept with girls, and that of course, in this kind of underdog movie, he’s going to get the girl anyway.

    I had a great time with this movie, I enjoyed it’s silliness, I liked it’s easy-going approach to itself and the fact that it never took itself too seriously. I also found the extended length of the gags to be one of the main reasons that the movie was clever and, for the most part, absolutely hilarious.

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