Directed by: Akiva Schaffer
Written by: Pam Brady
Starring: Andy Samberg, Isla Fisher, Jorma Taccone, Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Sissy Spacek
Having the right inspiration can give someone the strength to accomplish even the most difficult tasks in life. For some, it may be to make someone proud, raise money for a worthy cause, but in Hot Rod, it just so happens to be the protagonist’s wish to beat up his stepfather. If you’re on board with the absurdist idea of this story, it makes for an incredibly fun and light comedic explosion.
Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) aspires to be like his deceased stuntman father and spends much of his time devising different daredevil jumps. Another passion of his life also revolves in trying to beat up his stepfather, Frank (Ian McShane) to prove he’s now a man. After Frank learns he needs a heart transplant the family cannot afford, Rod decides he will raise the money so that Frank can get healthy and he can finally kick his ass.
Everything about Hot Rod seeks to make you drop your jaw from how ridiculous everything in the story becomes. Evidently, it’s what then makes it such a fun and enjoyable feature to watch. Blending the tropes of a film like this with the absurdist comedy of someone like Andy Samberg makes even the more basic aspects incredibly comedic. It begins with the plot and just how stupid and immature Rod’s plan becomes. His plan is to make his stepdad better just to beat him up because it’s his only course of action to transition into manhood, and he could not claim victory if Frank remains sickly. The best part of it all comes from everyone else going along with this journey.
Rod’s crew consists of Kevin (Jorma Taccone), Dave (Bill Hader), Rico (Danny McBride), and his love interest, Denise (Isla Fisher). Each of them steps on for the ride and adds to the ridiculous hijinx going on. They each have their own separate moments to shine in the film, but it all belongs to Andy Samberg’s hilarious portrayal of Rod. He acts like a grown child in the way he seeks acceptance from his stepfather through fighting and how the persona of a daredevil requires him to put on a fake mustache because he has a hormonal issue preventing him from growing a real one. It seems so childish but the truly endearing nature of the character makes him someone worth rooting for. Even in his moments of selfishness, Rod always does right by the people around him.
Hot Rod can be seen as a throwback 80s sports film with the workout montages and the absolutely cartoonishly evil villain getting in the way of love for Rod. It would be unoriginal if not for the film’s insistence in breaking out absurdist humor throughout. One of the best moments happens when Rod runs out to the woods for an inspirational workout, which then turns into a dance routine of sorts. Something you would see in an 80s sports film, which would draw inspiration, but during his dance, Rod falls down a hill and he continues to fall for a solid minute. You think it would stop after a couple of seconds because the main joke has been made, but the fact that it continues for a whole minute makes it weirdly hilarious. It just goes on and on, which would get tiring but the earnestness of this film makes it logical in the strangest sense. This film is loaded with these sorts of sequences and it underlies the idea of fun these characters have with their lives. Being serious all of the time will suck out the enjoyment of life. Hot Rod allows these grown-up boys to enjoy jumping over swimming pools to impress other people because it brings them joy in a manner we may forget to do when we grow up.
By following tropes, but then being completely absurd about it all, Hot Rod proves to be a complete blast in the way it progresses throughout its story. The sequences of ridiculousness match the absurdity of its plot, which makes for such a fun time. Prepare to hear the term “cool beans” a plethora of times and take the leap, as Hot Rod takes you on a truly absurd journey but one with enough earnestness and heart that you’ll happily tag along.