Hot Rod — or, to give it a more accurate title, Napoleon Dynamite: The Stunt Years — is a strange film. It’s an amiable comedy about Rod (Saturday Night Live’s Samberg), a Dynamite-esque teenager famous locally for his stunts which generally end in painful disaster. Rod and stepfather Frank (McShane) have a weekly fight which is meant to give Rod some spine. However, after many years, he’s still never managed to beat Frank and, with Frank recently diagnosed with a fatal heart defect, it looks like he never will. Unless, of course, someone can raise $50,000 for a heart transplant by, perhaps, jumping 15 buses which, for the record, is ‘one more than Evel Knievel’. It’s all very silly and, inevitably, features Bill Hader — who is, apparently, in every film being made at the moment (only when Bruce Willis is unavailable — Ed). However, it’s never quite silly enough and, after delivering three genuine, flat-out belly laughs in the first 20 minutes or so — a classic face plant, a brilliant Footloose pastiche and a stupidly funny Homer-esque fall down a mountain — it never lives up to that early promise. A good cast keeps you smiling but, ultimately, it’s all a bit disappointing.
Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.