Hot Rod Akiva Schaffer

The next generation of Saturday Night Live talent has presented us with Andy Samberg. This can be a frivolous thing to grasp, given that that writer’s pedigree for good quality comedy is still in its juvenile stage. The kid has potential but he’s got some work cut out for him. Hot Rod, his official foray from SNL skit kitsch to feature film, represents Samberg’s premature rush — it’s stupidly affable but you feel ashamed, even pitiful, to even laugh at said content. Take for instance his premise: Rod Kimble is a stuntman, though not of the professional kind. He’s built a suburban cult following for his mind-numbing acts, which generally involve Rod launching himself at anything — RVs, walls, glass boards — without the slightest hint of fear. Whether he’s on his coveted motorbike or not, it doesn’t matter, Samberg practically spends the entire movie screaming in mid-air. He hates his step dad Frank because Frank has sired the boy on beatings, each time reminding Rod that he will never enter manhood because he’s a pussy. Frank falls ill, needing a $50,000 operation to survive. This triggers Rod’s inborn honour, giving him a reason to raise enough money so that he can save Frank, and then fairly kick his ass once and for all. The reason: jump 15 school buses on his bike. The rest plays out like Napoleon Dynamite meets Super Dave. Granted, there are genuinely funny moments, mostly borrowed from the slapstick lexicon of comedy, and the atmospheric throwback to ’80s shtick comedy is endearing. The dialogue, however, exploits Samberg’s unpolished status as being "up and coming” but not yet movie material. One could argue that this is his Billy Madison, while hints of genius lay within. Perhaps. But there’s too much banality to plod through in order to catch a future Adam Sandler in the making. It’ll take another, better movie to achieve that. The extras provide us with various short vignettes that take us from deleted scenes to behind the scenes to some hilarious outtakes. Sadly, it’s easier to laugh at Samberg here, not with him. Kid’s got potential though. (Paramount)