November 27, 2007

DVD Pick of the Week: Hot Rod

This final week of November brings with it a number of decent releases, but as far as A-list material goes it's looking pretty thin. That isn't to say there isn't a title worthy of carrying the "DVD Pick of the Week" mantle, because there is. When you look down the list, there are definitely titles that are worthy of adding to your collection, just as there are titles that you will want to avoid like Kryptonite. Fortunately, I am here to wade through the list and bring to you the cream of the crop, and the occasional title to avoid.

This week's pick is none other than Hot Rod. Yes, you read that right. My choice for the number one pick of the week is a dumb comedy. It was ignored when it was in theaters and will likely be ignored to a large extent on DVD, but if you like weird goofy comedies, this is definitely one to check out.

As the promotional machine worked up the release of Hot Rod I was a big naysayer. I took a look at the trailer, the commercials, the stills, the poster, and a few other clips that made their way out onto the 'net and made up my mind. There was no way this movie was going to be good, there was a good chance that it wasn't even going to be funny. It just smacked of low-brow idiocy that wanted to be funny, and just wasn't. The bits just didn't seem to work, and none of the stuff I saw made me want to laugh. Now, after seeing Hot Rod, I am ready to retract my negativity.

Hot Rod is not a bad movie, as I had been so fully expecting it to be. The movie has a go for the gold gusto to it. It is sweetly innocent and wildly random in its execution. I found myself laughing through nearly the entire movie, sometimes in spite of myself. There is this infectious energy that envelopes the project, everyone involved fed off of this as they moved ahead. The actors threw themselves headlong into the story which actually treated its characters with respect. There is much foolishness to be had, but no one is treated as a fool; the script is not making fun of the characters so much as it is laughing along with them.

Saturday Night Live's Andy Samberg stars as Rod Kimble, a character that seems tailor made for a younger Will Ferrell. Kimble fancies himself a stuntman, complete with dreams of jumping the public pool, and following in the footsteps of his hero, his father. His father died when Kimble was young, his mother (Sissy Spacek) spun stories of his working with Evel Knievel, and the glory of a stuntman. This has set young Rod's life on a course where he will become famous, win the girl, and make his father proud. Also on his to do list is to win the respect of his stepfather (Ian McShane), which can only be won in hand to hand combat. This leads to numerous fights between the two, always resulting in Rod being beaten into submission.

There is never a day that goes by that Rod and his intrepid team don't try to jump over something, or break some sort of speed record. Of course, they are not all that good, no matter that they think they are brilliant. One day, Rod learns that his stepfather has a heart condition that is threatening his life. The idea that he will die without being beaten by Rod is unthinkable, so the stunt crew go to work to raise the money needed to get the heart transplant.

The story is really secondary to the characters and the laughs. It is the framework that allows us to have a reason to travel from point A to point B, but it is not what makes the movie work. What makes this movie work, first and foremost, is Andy Samberg. I am not terribly familiar with his SNL output, but her he delivers a sweet natured character that clings to his dreams and goes for the gusto. There is no pretense to him, not a mean bone in his body, and Samberg perfectly captures Rod Kimble, his never say die attitude. Then there is his interactions with the rest of the cast, including his would be girlfriend Denise, played by Isla Fisher, and his crew made up of half-brother Kevin (Jorma Taccone), Dave (Bill Hader), and Rico (Danny McBride).

Beyond that, there is the absolutely random nature of the comedy, and its reliance on '80s-era rock and roll. There are so many random moments of hilarity that I couldn't help but laugh at the sheer zaniness of the project. From Rod's actions in his "quiet place," to the pool jump, to Denise and Jonathan's incident towards the end, to the over the top fights, to Chris Parnell, to "cool beans," and the ever present Europe songs, this movie exceeded expectations (not that mine were high).

This is definitely a movie to see with a bunch of friends, you will laugh right through to the end and then laugh some more thinking about your favorite parts. While it is not a great movie, it is the right movie at the right time. Samberg has a bright future ahead of him. So, if you are a fan of random comedy, this is right up your alley.

There are plenty of extras on the disk: Commentary by Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Ancestors Protect Me: Behind the Scenes of Hot Rod, 15 Deleted And Extended Scenes - With Optional Commentary by Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Outtakes Reel, 10 of Kevin's Videos, Theatrical Trailer.

Also out this week:
  • Futurama: Bender's Big Score. Very funny new DVD movie, the first of four to come. Plenty of extras including a complete episode of Everybody Loves Hypnotoad.
  • Waitress. Fantastic comic drama featuring Keri Russell. This will definitely put a smile on your face.
  • Mr. Bean's Holiday. Only see this if you are a Bean fan, otherwise you will be bored to tears at how unfunny this movie is. Bean is best when kept to small doses.
  • The Namesake. Very good film featuring Kal Penn's first dramatic lead and agreat performance by Tabu.
  • Paprika. Satoshi Lon's latest is a fascinating excursion into surrealism.
  • WWE Shawn Michaels: Heartbreak and Triumph. Not much of a wrestling fan these days, but here is one of the all time greats.
  • Hot Fuzz: Three Disk Edition. I hear this is what the UK release was. It is loaded with commentary tracks, deleted scenes, featurettes and more.
  • I Know Who Killed Me. Lindasy Lohan attempts to bring the torture film mainstream in this lame flick. Avoid.
  • Skinwalkers. Never did get to see this werewolf flick, but I cannot imagine it being very good.
  • First Snow. I really wanted to see this on the big screen but never had the chance. Guy Pearce stars as a man who will die at the first snow of the season.
  • Psychopathic: The Videos. ICP, Twizted, Blaze, and the rest of the Psychopathic family in a collection of their videos, complete with new footage.
  • Dragon Tiger Gate. This was directed by the action director of SPL and stars Donnie Yen and Nicholas Tse.
  • Metal Blade Records: 25th Anniversary Live. A collection of performances from their anniversary tour, featuring Unearth, Cannibal Corpse, The Black Dahlia Murder, The Red Chord, and others.


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