Nerd do well
HOT ROD Directed by Akiva Schaffer. Starring Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Isla Fisher, Bill Hader, Ian McShane, Sissy Spacek 12A cert, gen release, 88 min
YES, I’m afraid Hot Rod is yet another comedy about a teenage loser who, despite all the evidence otherwise, thinks himself a suburban Norse god. This time round, Andy Samberg, star of Saturday Night Live and YouTube, plays an aspiring stuntman with an overpowering urge to impress his smug, arrogant stepfather. Rod (for it is he) is better looking than Napoleon Dynamite and is marginally more socially adroit than that iconic loon, but he remains essentially the same character.
Should you run screaming? Not at all. The fact that such distinguished personalities as Lovejoy and Carrie – Ian McShane and Sissy Spacek to their loved ones – have agreed to appear as Rod’s stepfather and mother suggests that the script might have something fresh to add to the bulging genre.
Sure enough, Hot Rod manages to combine nerd larks with a hilarious pastiche of the class of obstacle-overcoming 1980s drama exemplified by The Karate Kid and Flashdance. Never before has poodle rock been used so promiscuously in a film that does not bear the brand of Jerry Bruckheimer. Few movies have made such a comic virtue of blind, unthinking determination to succeed.
None of which is to suggest that Hot Rod breaks any new ground. The hysterically overextended sequence where the hero rolls endlessly down a mighty hill recalls a well- remembered incident in Springfield Gorge, and the various failed stunts involving bikes, fire and fridges owe much to the catastrophic humour of Jackass. But Sandberg has a stubborn charm that should win over even the most jaded veteran of post- Dynamite comedy.
Besides, any film that manages to make something epically funny of John Farnham’s legendarily horrid song You’re the Voice deserves some sort of award.
Goofy Andy Samberg as not-so-hot Rod