Andy Samberg is no Adam Sandler (yet)or even Jimmy Fallon, his Sandler-wannabe predecessorand Hot Rod is no Billy Madison. It will be, however, one helluva channel-surfing-in-the-middle-of-the-night gem.
Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) is what Napoleon Dynamite might've been had he fantasized about Jackass instead of ligers: a gawky half-wit with a penchant for stunts he can't come close to pulling off. But when his stepfather (Ian McShane) falls gravely ill and can't afford a heart transplant, it's just the motivation Rod needs to go that extra mile, er, bus. See, Rod has decided to try and jump across 15 buses in hopes of raising money for his stepdad's operationbut only to get him healthy enough for Rod to beat him fair and square in a fight (which will make more sense if you see the movie). So Rod assembles his "crew"stepbrother/videographer/team manager Kevin (Jorma Taccone); mechanic Dave (Bill Hader); ramp builder Rico (Danny McBride); and newest member Denise (Isla Fisher), on whom Rod has a massive crushto help whip him into shape. He hits an emotional roadblock when he learns that his real father did not, in fact, die testing a stunt for Evel Knievel, but ultimately nothing can keep Rod downexcept gravity.
Usually, Saturday Night Live stars have to leave the show before they can headline a movielike Adam Sandler, whose brain Samberg would clearly love to pick (and transplant into his own). But Samberg was wise to allow himself something, in SNL, to fall back on, because his Digital Shorts talent (i.e. the Justin Timberlake collabo "D**k in a Box") doesn't exactly translate into feature-length humor. There are undeniably hilarious random freak-outs, even to the un-stoned, and in a few years he might be the Next Great SNL retiree, but the jokes become one-note very quickly. So, comedic voice of Generation Y(ouTube)? Not quite. He might not even be the current voice of SNL, if costar Hader has any say. Hader is choosing all the right movies and roles in them (see this month's Superbadseriously!), and his inane humor is much more sustainable than Samberg's. Simply looking at Hader is cause for laughter, which is half the battle between these neo-SNLers. Unlike Hader, Wedding Crashers star Fisher is terribly miscast. Not only does Fisher look more mature (to put it nicely) than her character is supposed to be, but she's much funnier than the stupid-funny of Hot Rod, in which she, of all people, is the proverbial "straight man." And in a double-take-worthy role, revered actress Sissy Spacek graces the screen as Rod's mom, a la Kathy Bates in Sandler's The Waterboy.
You can take the dudes out of SNL, but you can't take the SNL out of the dudes. And the foursome of SNL contributorsSamberg, Taccone, Hader and Akiva Schaffer, who directsalong with screenwriter Pam Brady (Team America) demonstrate why SNL is no longer much to laugh at, as they replicate the show's stupid humor under the guise of fresh humor ("fresh" because, you see, Andy Samberg is youngish and YouTube-cool). After about a quarter of the way in, it becomes clear that Schaffer is satisfied with virtually no storyline, resting the movie's fate in the purportedly funny hands of Samberg. Granted, the first quarter holds promise that the movie will take a Talladega Nights-like turn into a mock story, but it remains nothing more than the silliness of Napoleon Dynamite (only not nearly as offbeat) combined with the failed stunts of Jackass (only not nearly as dangerous to the star). The Napoleonic resemblance continues with the obscure '80s soundtrack, which is about the funniest thing Hot Rod has going for itself.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 stars.