We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Hot Rod’s Rod Kimble is a moped-driving stuntman, but he may as well be figure-skating while reading a teleprompter and wearing a vote for pedro T-shirt. Saturday Night Live comic Andy Samberg’s amalgam of Napoleon Dynamite and every Will Ferrell character to grace the big screen overestimates his talents, his appeal, his friends—and does much of it while wearing a thick fake mustache and occasionally making noises reminiscent of a barking walrus. Rod is your go-to loser, a petulant college-age kid who doesn’t work, still lives at home, and has a vaguely triangular haircut. He butts heads—quite literally—with his stepdad, Frank (Deadwood’s Ian McShane), attempting to win his respect by challenging the old man to fights. These battles are put on hiatus, however, when Rod’s mother (Sissy Spacek, embarrassingly filling the Julie Hagerty space-mom role) tells him that Frank has a heart problem and will likely die soon because they can’t afford a transplant. So Rod decides he’s going to put his stuntman skills to use to raise funds: “I’m going to get you better,” he seethes to Frank, “then I’m going to beat you to death!” Hot Rod is the misfit brain child of Samberg’s comedy trio, the Lonely Island (also comprising director Akiva Schaffer and co-star Jorma Taccone), best known for creating SNL digital shorts such as “Lazy Sunday” and “Dick in a Box.” Though some of its basics are derivative, the movie still manages to add new color to the stupidity rainbow. Really, you can’t go wrong with the elements thrown together here—Samberg’s gangliness, a terrible hair-metal soundtrack, and gags such as a character (Chester Tam) who seems to exist only to thrust-dance in various scenes are reflexive laugh-inducers despite the resistance your brain will inevitably put up. It’s way less consistent than such top Ferrell vehicles as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. But the silly genius of, say, an extended scene of Rod falling down a hill that’s made up of obviously separate takes are just enough to compensate for awkward misfires, including many moments with a wasted Isla Fisher, who as Rod’s love interest mostly has to look uncomfortably confused.