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RUNNING TIME: 88 Minutes
• Commentary by Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone
• Ancestors Protect Me: Behind the Scenes of Hot Rod
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Theatrical Trailer
• And More
The Stunt Man meets Dumb and Dumber.
Director: Akiva Schaffer
Starring: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Ian McShane, Sissy Spacek, Isla Fisher, Bill Hader, Danny McBride
Rod Kimble’s (Samberg) aspirations are simple, he hopes to follow in his deceased father’s footsteps as a great stuntman, and is willing to start at the bottom of the ladder in order to ascend to greatness. More important than superstardom is gaining the respect of his stepfather Frank (McShane), with whom he has annual sparring matches that he’s always on the losing end of. When Frank’s heart begins to fail on him, Rod looks to pull of the biggest stunt he’s ever attempted; he looks to help of his crew (Hader, Taccone, McBride) and the love of his high school friend (Fisher) in order to pull it off.
One of the more entertaining subplots of this already fantastic 2007 movie season has been the resurgence of the studio comedy: no longer the playground for single star posturing with Galactus-level devouring of scenery and concepts, the comedy of Judd Apatow/Edgar Wright/Adam McKay (credit also to David Wain and all State-related offshoots) has created a playground where all the actors in each piece get a chance to show their comedic chops. It’s nice to see some fresh talent hop into the space that these filmmakers have cleared for them and the Lonely Island trio* (Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer and Andy Samberg) seem well suited for the role.
Originally created as a Will Ferrell vehicle (and one can easily see how this role was right up his alley), the Lonely Island manage to make this picture all their own. Some of the more esoteric humor that dominated some of their online work permeates through into the finished product (the cool beans sequence comes to mind), but it blends in quite nicely with the broader physical humor that is the bread and butter of a comedy such as this on the big screen. Schaffer proves he’s quite adroit with the camera work, staging Rod’s early stunts with precision, and more importantly than that, the boys seem to have no problem with comedic editing. I find that a comedy lives and dies by its editing, and that gold spun on camera can be lost forever in the ether of the editing room. In particular, their ability to cut mid-sound busted my shit both in the theater and when revisited in the comfort of my own home (Arnett’s final scene and Samberg’s reaction to a food stand clerk are the two scenes, for those keeping score at home). Even if one doesn’t find the movie particularly funny they’ll have to admire the craft, pacing, and timing put into the effort on the screen.
Samberg makes for an appealing comedic lead, adding a little bit of childish energy and the ability to pull off some pop culture references that might not play as well in the hands of more seasoned comedic film presences. Most of the supporting cast does a nice job, spinning gold out of their brief screen time (props especially to Chris Parnell for nailing his role as an AM radio jockey). The real standout is Danny McBride; who, if the word on The Foot Fist Way is to be believed, is destined for great things in the near future. Don’t be surprised if he starts to show up in all of the comedic frat pack’s material in the coming years, his delivery and comedic chops are simply that good. In a cast that did particularly well with the material, you get the feeling that this is the breakout role that people will look back on.
However, this film isn’t a complete home run. Ian McShane, Isla Fisher and Sissy Spacek aren’t really given anything to do (McShane did play better on the small screen) and none of the women in the film are ever given a chance to shine comedically. However, I’d argue that this is a solid ground rule double for the first-time filmmakers and I’m excited to see them branch out and adapt some work of their own for the big screen in what is hopefully the near future. And if nothing else, this is the right time to get on board the Danny McBride love train so you can claim the hipster firsties on his bandwagon (before the subsequent backlash that will take place approximately in 2009). Easily the best Lorne Michaels-produced comedy since the Wayne’s World movies. High recommendation.
The cover art is a little generic but appropriately epic and grandiose considering the tone with which the film considers its main character. As is the case with most Paramount new releases, the audio and video are expertly handled (special props to the audio on a movie comprised almost entire of Europe’s catalog). It’s got a nice little spate of extras to go along with it as well, which is nice to see on a release that didn’t bowl anybody over with its grosses while in theaters (Paramount shouldn’t worry, this will find its niche audience on DVD, potentially cult or basic cable mainstay material for sure). The commentary track from the Lonely Island gang is intermittently amusing, as is the Ancestors Protect Me featurette (you get a strong internet influence in the editing of this particular piece). The deleted/extended scenes are worth a spin (one joke in particular should be lamented for having not been in the final cut). The outtakes aren’t really good (Is Rush Hour the only series that has consistency with these?) and the theatrical trailer isn’t for anything more than posterity. There are a handful of unadvertised videos showcasing Rod’s technique from his brother Kevin’s perspective, and depending on how positively you feel towards the picture, those may or may not suit your fancy. All in all a nice group of bonus material to complement a movie that might sneak up on fans of comedy.
8.0 out of 10
*Of whom I’ve been a huge fan for quite a while, in the interest of full disclosure.1
1In the further interest of full disclosure, that last sentence was typed with my erect penis.