Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Hot Rod

Directed by Akiva Schaffer and written by Pam Brady (with additional re-writes by Schaffer, Andy Samberg, and Jorma Taccone), Hot Rod is the story of an amateur stuntman who tries to raise money to pay for his stepfather’s heart transplant and later kick his ass just to earn his respect. The film is an unconventional comedy that plays into a young man trying to find himself with the aid of his half-brother and their misfit friends. Starring Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Isla Fisher, Will Arnett, Sissy Spacek, Chris Parnell, and Ian McShane. Hot Rod is an idiotic yet hilarious film from Akiva Schaffer.

What happens when a goofball that wants to become a stuntman decides to create a fundraiser for his stepfather’s heart transplant by pulling off the craziest stunt ever? That is what the film is about as it revolves around a delusional yet kind-hearted young man that is eager to gain the respect of his stepfather who often disrespects him verbally and physically because the young man is such a goofball. With the help of his half-brother, a couple of friends, and a grad student whom he has feelings for, Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) hopes to succeed and later give his stepfather the ass-kicking he deserves. Along the way, hilarity ensues as the film’s screenplay doesn’t just kind of spoof a few films of the 80s as it relates to BMX biker films and such but also all sorts of things.

Especially as Rod tries to do whatever to create stunts where it often becomes a disaster as he wouldn’t give up despite how bad the outcome is. Even as the film’s second half would force him to find out the truth about his father who he thought was a stuntman working for Evel Knievel. Still, Rod would eventually realize what he must do as it is part of him trying to become a man which is what his stepfather Frank (Ian McShane) has been trying to do to Rod though he is still convinced that Rod couldn’t kick his ass.

Akiva Schaffer’s direction is quite simple for most of the film in terms of its approach to comedy as well in the compositions. Shot on location in Vancouver and parts of British Columbia in Canada, the film is presented as this simple story set in the suburbs where Rod and his friends are trying to have fun. The usage of wide and medium shots help play into that sense of enjoyment including a weird but silly scene of Rod’s friends and his half-brother Kevin (Jorma Taccone) dancing to Stacey Q’s Two of Hearts with Rod and Denise (Isla Fisher) watching. There are also these weird moments in the film that are very off-the-wall and surreal as it plays into the film’s offbeat humor. Notably a moment where this character named Richardson (Chester Tam) is there just dancing for no fucking reason whatsoever. It’s among these quirks that are baffling but also fun such as a homage to Footloose as well as a scene of inspiration that goes horribly wrong. All of which plays into this young man wanting to pull off the ultimate stunt so he can save his stepfather and then kick his ass. Overall, Schaffer creates a silly yet exhilarating film about an amateur stuntman.

Cinematographer Andrew Dunn does excellent work with the cinematography from the colorful and sunny look of the daytime exterior scenes as well as some unique lighting for some of the interiors. Editor Malcolm Campbell does amazing work with the editing as it is straightforward but also playful in its usage of rhythmic cuts in the humorous and very silly moments. Production designer Stephen Altman, with set decorator Mary-Lou Storey and supervising art director Chris August, does fantastic work with the look of the home Rod lives with the family as well as some of the props that are made for the stunts. Costume designer Tish Monaghan does nice work with the costumes from the jumpsuit and cape that Rod wears to some of slacker-like clothing his friends wear.

Visual effects supervisor Charlene Eberle Douglas does terrific work with some of the minimal visual effects as it include some of the stunts that Rod tries to do as well as some of the crazier moments in the film. Sound designer Sean Garnhart does superb work with the sound in capturing some of the livelier moments of the film as well as the impact or lack of impact in the stunts. The film’s music by Trevor Rabin is wonderful for its mixture of rock and orchestral music to play into moments that are inspirational or comedic while music supervisor Steven Baker creates a fun soundtrack that largely consists of music from one of Rod’s favorite bands in Europe as well as music from acts like Stacey Q, Moving Pictures, Cutting Crew, The Lonely Island, Giorgio Moroder, John Farnham, and Queens of the Stone Age who make a cameo as glam metal band called Gown.

The casting by Susan Taylor Brouse, Lynne Carrow, and Allison Jones is great as it features some notable small roles from director Akiva Schaffer as a guy giving Dave acid, Brittany Tiplady as Dave’s younger sister, Alvin Sanders as furious boss upset over one of Rod’s stunts, Mark Acheson as a homeless dude giving Rod’s friends instruction during a montage, Britt Irvin as a fast-food cashier Rod tries to go out with to impress Denise, and Chester Tam as a guy named Richardson who likes to dance erotically for no reason other than just be cool. Chris Parnell is terrific as an AM radio host Barry Pasternak who wants to host the stunt event as he dislikes color TV and FM radio while Will Arnett is superb as Denise’s dick-head boyfriend Jonathan who thinks Rod and his buddies are uncool. Sissy Spacek is excellent as Rod and Kevin’s mother Marie who understands what Rod is trying to do but also tell him the truth about who his father really is.

Ian McShane is fantastic as Frank as Rod’s stepfather who doesn’t think highly of Rod as just this immature goofball and a loser as it’s a very comical performance from McShane. Danny McBride is amazing as Rico as Rod’s friend who helps build ramps and such while being the tough guy with a heart of gold. Bill Hader is brilliant as Dave as Rod’s friend who helps in organizing as well as get people ready for the stunts while having a moment where he would trip on acid as it’s major plot point in the film. Jorma Taccone is marvelous as Rod’s half-brother Kevin as the nerdy yet kind-hearted guy who helps films and edit all of Rod’s videos. Isla Fisher is remarkable as Denise as a grad student who joins Rod’s team as she helps him with the stunts as well as give him confidence seeing that he is at least doing something he loves instead of the people she’s met in college. Finally, there’s Andy Samberg who is awesome as Rod Kimble as this dim-witted, delusional, and gutsy young guy who likes to put on a fake mustache to think he’s a man when he is really still a kid at heart as it’s a very funny performance to watch.

Hot Rod is a spectacular film from Akiva Schaffer. Featuring a great cast, a fun soundtrack, and a hilarious premise that is filled with a lot of offbeat and quirky humor. It’s a film that doesn’t take itself seriously while also proving that it can be stupid fun no matter how idiotic things are. In the end, Hot Rod is a phenomenal film from Akiva Schaffer.

© thevoid99 2016

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