Hot Rod (HD DVD)

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 HD DVD version of “Hot Rod” does manage to improve upon the standard DVD release. The 2.35:1 VC-1 HD transfer makes a noticeable improvement over the standard DVD as the detail level is apparent and the colors seem to pop a bit more. Watching the two in a sort of A/B comparison showed me where the HD DVD excelled and the best way I can describe it is just an overall more clean and vibrant transfer. The HD DVD version has more of a film-like look to it as well. While the standard DVD isn’t bad in the least, those wanting to show off their HDTV will do better with this version as opposed to the standard offering. This version is HD DVD only as some have the standard DVD on the other side.

Audio: How does it sound?

Paramount has given this HD DVD version of “Hot Rod” a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack and a Dolby Digital Plus as well. I chose the TrueHD to see how much better it sounded as opposed to the Dolby Digital 5.1 found on the standard DVD. While I did notice a difference, it wasn’t so much that it was night and day. There’s a bit more depth to this TrueHD track; some of the “booms” and “thumps” are louder and I did notice some more discrete sound effects with little things like the motorcycle engine. Againk, the highlight from the standard DVD was Rod’s fall down the mountain and it sounds that much better here. Technically viewers will get a better audio and video experience out of the HD DVD, but then again you’re paying for it.

Supplements: What are the extras?

All of the supplements from the standard DVD are included here and the only real “upgrade” is that the trailer is presented in HD. “Hot Rod” comes to DVD (and HD DVD) with just enough supplements to warrant a purchase. 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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