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Case Number 12456

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Hot Rod

Paramount // 2007 // 87 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // November 27th, 2007

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All Rise...

Judge Paul Pritchard likes to tell the ladies he has a hot rod; in truth it's lukewarm at best.

Editor's Note

Our review of Hot Rod (Blu-Ray), published December 16th, 2008, is also available.

The Charge

"I used to be legit. I was too legit. I was too legit to quit. But now I'm not legit. I'm unlegit. And for that, I must quit."

Opening Statement

Napoleon Dynamite returns as a wannabe stuntman, except he's now called Rod Kimble and is a lot less funny than before.

Facts of the Case

Rod Kimble yearns for two things, to follow in his late father's footsteps by being a great stuntman and to punch his stepdad in the face hard enough to earn his respect. When Rod learns his stepdad is dying from a heart defect, he vows to raise the money necessary to save him…then beat him to death.

Having punch-danced his rage out and suffered an extremely long fall, Rod is presented with the idea that will allow him to raise the money, jump fifteen buses on his moped—one more than even Evil Knievel managed. Rod knows this because he looked it up…online.

What ensues is a combination of Jackass and Napoleon Dynamiteset to an 80's rock soundtrack.

The Evidence

I'm not a huge fan of Napoleon Dynamite, but the film became enough of a hit that imitations were sure to arrive eventually. Enter Hot Rod, revving its engine in anticipation of becoming a cult hit but more likely to land face first in the gravel pit of mediocrity.

Following the loser makes good formula almost to the letter, Hot Rod starts out rather well. We are introduced to Rod (Andy Samberg) and his "crew" as he prepares to jump a van on his moped. The inevitably fluffed landing confirms Rod is a loser but, as movie rule No. 48 states, "anyone perceived to be a loser within the first scene must achieve greatness before the end credits roll." Standing between Rod and his chance of greatness is Rod's stepfather, Frank Powell (Ian McShane, Lovejoy). Frank ritually beats Rod like a child on a sugar rush beats a piñata at a birthday party. Aware that Frank will only respect him once he is able to take him down, Rod repeatedly comes back for more.

Upon learning of Frank's terminal illness, Rod is crushed. He yearns to beat Frank and is upset that his chance may be taken from him. When his mother (Sissy Spacek, Coal Miner's Daughter) informs him that $50,000 will allow Frank to have the surgery required to save him, Rod sets out to raise the money. Despite Frank's unsupportive words, Rod declares, "I am gonna get you better, and then I'm gonna beat you to death!"

As many greats of the genre have shown, a great story is not necessary to make a great comedy. Some of my favorites from Airplane! to Anchorman simply hang a series of great comedy sketches onto a basic outline of a plot and allow the relentless laughs to carry the film. Sadly, though it has a similar structure, Hot Rod ultimately just doesn't have enough laughs to make it a film I can heartily recommend. That's not to say the film didn't have me laughing out loud. On several occasions I was left thanking my excellent bladder control as I doubled up with laughter. It's just a shame these moments were scattered amongst long segments that just were not funny.

The DVD offers a fine, if not spectacular, video presentation. Colors are a little dull but the image is reasonably sharp and, for DVD at least, black levels were good, giving some depth to the picture. The audio had plenty of kick, especially when the likes of John Farnham or Cutting Crew fill the soundtrack.

The extras are the usual mix of commentary and brief making of and outtakes/deleted scenes. Adding a little more humor is the "Punch-Dance" feature which offers a comparison to the scene from Flashdance that inspired it.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

As stated earlier the film does have some very funny moments including an excellent gag about a Tai Chi move that can make a man "crap his pants." As every comedian knows you're almost always guaranteed a laugh with dick and fart jokes.

The cast is also very likeable. Given the right material I'm sure Andy Samberg could carve out a good movie career. He's ably supported by a cast that do their best with what they are given to work with, including Isla Fisher, who seems to be making a decent movie career for herself, having left her days in Australian soaps behind.

Closing Statement

Despite a number of really good laughs, the movie as a whole just doesn't offer enough for me to really recommend it.

The Verdict

The cast are free to go having done the best with the material given. All others involved are found guilty of sloppiness and sentenced to lie in a row while the judge attempts to jump over them on his BMX.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 79
Acting: 75
Story: 60
Judgment: 73

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary by Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, and Jorma Taccone
• Ancestors Protect Me: Behind the Scenes of Hot Rod
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Outtakes
• Theatrical Trailer
• Kevin's Videos
• Punch-Dance
• Home Video Footage of Orchestra Recording Session
• Previews


• IMDb
• Official Site

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