HotRod: The Movie Michael Morrow

In 1998, "Hot Rod" Joey Kemp won the first heat in the demolition derby at the local Lansdowne Fair, but his run was cut short by a car too damaged to further compete that night and a shoulder injury that would prevent him from competing for a few more years. While the return of some unknown hick to his town's local demolition derby might not seem like the most necessary subject matter, the subjects of HotRod: The Movie, the documentary debut of Toronto's 5290 Films, are both comic and tragic. "Hot Rod" Joey Kemp (the film's "hero") is a beer-swilling party animal that just wants to smash stuff and have the chance to relive past glories, but the odds seem stacked against him. He's surrounded by his family, friends and pit crew, and the other drivers that will be "gunning" for him. Entering the derby with Kemp are drivers like the perpetually smiling Jamie Birmingham, who moves from paintbrush to branch to hands when painting the flare on his car, affectionately named "The Berminato,;" or Team Sweetleaf's stoned headbanger Gary Miller, who jokes that the main attraction of Lansdowne is that they have good meat, or "The Jester," the young driver who never cracks a smile. But leave it to Hot Rod's uncle Roy Roberts to steal almost every scene he's in with his baffling talk that often requires subtitles. The outcome — whether Kemp will back up his bragging with another win? — is less important than the process of getting there. Along the way each driver gives his unique perspective on demolition derbies, the skills or luck necessary to win, and tips on finding and preparing a car. In fact, the demolition part is not nearly as exciting as the more substantial people moments that run throughout the first three-quarters of the film. Still, fans of American Movie, Fubar and Trailer Park Boys will be sure to appreciate this hilarious ode to the strength of the human spirit. (5290, www.hotrodthemovie.tk)