Hot Rod (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I’ve always taken movies produced by Lorne Michaels with a grain of salt. I mean, let’s face it, most of them are taken from five minute SNL skits and don’t really have a whole lot of substance to them. There are the exceptions, of course, like “Wayne’s World” and “Tommy Boy” but by and large it’s more of a launching pad for some of the SNL cast members to see if they have what it takes to make it on the big screen. Such is the case for Andy Samberg whose namesake and likeness so closely resembles that of Adam Sandler; I find it hard to tell the two apart. I can’t discredit Samberg for wanting to mimic the career moves of Adam Sandler, for Sandler is one of the more successful actors in the last twenty years. In many ways “Hot Rod” reminds me a lot of Sandler’s early movies like “Happy Gilmore” and “Billy Madison”. That aside, “Hot Rod” isn’t based on any SNL skit that I know of (I really don’t watch the show regularly anymore), but it’s got all of the trademarks of former SNL-like movies. The begging question is: does it work?

The short answer is yes. If you check your mind at the door then I think “Hot Rod” is a very amusing movie and one that will work for most all kids and a majority of the adults who view it. Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) is in training to be a stunt man, just like his late father. He sets up random stunts along with his mini-entourage only to fail a majority of the time. Failure doesn’t get Rod down, however, as he’s already planning his next stunt before the bruises from the present stunt have yet to heal. Rod’s step father, Frank (Ian McShane) verbally and sometimes physically (albeit comically) assaults Rod and he wants nothing more than to literally “kick his ass”. The crux of the situation is that Frank is in need of a heart transplant and Rod, in all good conscience, can’t do the ass-kicking until he’s had his surgery and is 100%. To do this Rod and his trio must raise enough money to get Frank the operation ($50,000) and then Rod can live out his lifelong dream of being a stunt man and kicking his step-father’s ass.

To read the plot, you’d think the writers were smoking something and in all honesty, they probably were. However, the movie has a kind of sincerity that really draws you in. I’m not lying here folks, I had to pause the movie on several occasions so that I could catch my breath. I don’t know how someone like Rod could have a trio of friends that are always at his beck and call and furthermore how someone like Denise (the always lovely Isla Fisher) hangs around him and looks at him with big eyes. Let’s face it; stuff like this only happens in the movies. Still, I have to admit that I found “Hot Rod” very entertaining and without all of the gross out humor that plagues some of the more “teen”-oriented movies these days. “Hot Rod” might not win any awards (except on MTV), but it’s definitely good for several laughs.

Video: How does it look?

This Blu-ray version of “Hot Rod” does manage to improve upon the standard DVD release and looks identical to the HD DVD version. The 2.35:1 AVC HD transfer is about as good as can be expected and I did compare it to my HD DVD version and I’m hard-pressed to find many (if any) differences. Granted, Paramount is playing catch up with their catalog releases that they released on HD DVD so I’m sure they didn’t spend too much time going back to make sure Hot Rod looked its absolute best. Colors are generally strong with some scenes exhibiting a true 3-D look and feel to it while others seem a bit flat and soft. Detail is amazing, certainly a bump up from the standard DVD and there’s the slightest bit of grain in some of the opening shots. On the whole, it’s a nice transfer and if you’ve got the HD DVD I see no real differences between the two.

Audio: How does it sound?

Again, this is the same Dolby TrueHD track from the HD DVD and it’s simply been replicated on this Blu-ray version of the film. Comedies aren’t really used for reference material when it comes to sound, but this lossless track does have a few momtnts. Some of the “booms” and “thumps” are louder and I did notice some more discrete sound effects with little things like the motorcycle engine. Again, the highlight from the standard DVD was Rod’s fall down the mountain and it sounds that much better here. Dialogue seemed very natural and though there’s not a lot going on in the rear channels, they do occasionally fire off and make for a more robust atmosphere.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Again, Paramount has simply replicated what already existed on the HD DVD and put it on the Blu-ray format. That said, the commentary track by Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, and Jorma Taccone is fairly entertaining and we get some insight into the behind the scenes of the film and the inspiration behind the movie as a whole. This might be for hard-core fans of the film, but the option is there if you want it. The rest of the features don’t offer a whole lot of substance, but if you consider the movie itself then it makes sense. There are a few deleted scenes and some outtakes (of which there are plenty more, I’m sure) and the meat of the material is the “Behind the Scenes” featurette with some interviews with the cast and crew. If you’re going the nostalgic route then the “Punch Dance” featurette might be for you as we get a split screen view of the one from the film as it corresponds to Kevin Bacon’s masterful ballet in “Footloose”. The original theatrical trailer is also included in High Definition.

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