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precarious since 1997 | 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

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