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Click for full sized poster

Hot Rod

Starring Andy Samberg, Isla Fisher, Jorma Taccone, Bill H ader, Danny McBride with Sissy Spacek and Ian McShane
Screenplay by Pam Brady
Directed by Akiva Schaffer
website: www.hotrodmovie.com

IN SHORT: the 14 year-olds loved it . . . [Rated PG-13 for crude humor, language, some comic drug-related and violent content. 88 minutes]

Of course, Cranky isn't fourteen -- we reached the "old fart" category as of our last birthday, though some readers would argue that we reached it a decade ago. They can go stuff it <heh heh heh> . . .

Sorry about that last remark, which is fully in keeping with the kind of humor in Hot Rod, the latest movie generated by bored Saturday Night Live stars and staff on their summer hiatus. Would that they spent as much energy on making that grumbling old fart of a show <HA! GOTCHA!!> funy again . . . which is at least oneof the reasons why we didn't like Hot Rod while the legion of fourteen year olds around us -- okay, that "legion" numbered four but they were right next to us and very loud. Other demographically appropriate types surrounded the press rows at the preview screening and they were laughing and or giggling, no sexism from his critic, appropriately.

For yours Cranky, sitting through Hot Rod was like watching a dozen or bad and overly long SNL skits strung together, with one genuinely funny joke stiching together the scene changes. Then again, Cranky carries baggage, which we'll get to after filling space like a reg'lar reviewer.

It used to be that comedy was about getting drunk and stupid. Then, and this is our generation, stoned and stupid; first generation SNL stars brought us Animal House, after all, and Cheech and Chong were in a world all to themselves, literally and figuratively. Nowadays, with dope jokes off the table, we see comedy shifting towards the "hurt someone really badly" ideal. Watching stupid actions result in gross injury is funny AS LONG AS the idiot in question doesn't really get hurt. That's the magic of the big screen, folks.

Take Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg). Rod wants to be a daredevil stuntman like his deceased dad, who allegedly pre-tested all those jumps that made Evel Knievel famous. Rod's mom, Marie Powell (Sissy Spacek), has remarried and his new dad, Frank Powell (Ian McShane) despises the boy. That means weekly beat-em-ups so elder Rod can prove his manhood. Younger step-brother Kevin (Jorma Taccone) doesn't go through the weekly hazing because he's 100% beloved by his "real" dad.

Rod's first big-screen jump has our inept hero gunning his moped and going up a jury rigged jump ramp and high into the sky . . . smack into the edge of the landing ramp. In the real world, that would break his back in numerous places and leave him dead and/or crippled on the pavement. Being a comedy -- make no mistake about it, most of our audience was in stitches watching the nudnick get crunched -- Rod gets up and hobbles away. He is helped by his crew, lifelong friends Dave (Bill Hader) and Rico (Danny McBride), and, a couple of days later, is shocked to discover that next door neighbor Denise (Isla Fisher) is back from her first year at college. She wears a Harvard shirt and dates an idiot with a flashy car (SNL's Will Arnett) but falls under Rod's spell, anyways. Rod, of course, is too dumb to know it.

BUT THEN Frank's heart goes bad!!! Rod, fearing that his step dad will die before getting properly beat to death, steps in to help raise the needed $50,000 for a "reasonably priced" heart transplant. Rod's plan? to jump 15 busses on his bike, one more than the legendary Evel Knievel ever did. Said spectacular event is funded by a local AM radio magnate, Barry Pasternack (SNL's Chris Parnell), who sees it as a way to bring radio back to its glory days. Thus, no television coverage is to be had of the event. Be there or, uh, miss it.

Cranky admits it, we laughed at the radio jokes. FM Radio was our first career. Never say we never cop to the truth.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Hot Rod, he would have paid . . .

We're not going there on this one, folks. Cranky almost walked after the first screened "jump" -- the not-a-broken back thing, because (as long term readers know) we survived a broken neck a long ways back. Not once. Not twice. Three times. We kinda have a problem with films that think that injuries are funny. A couple of the similarly aged critics around us weren't laughing, either, but none of us are fourteen. Fourteen year olds like laughing at morons getting hurt. They were all appropriately awarded grown up size promotional underoos on the way out of the screening.

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