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The Fall Guy Fans Should Revisit This Underrated 2007 Comedy


The Fall Guy Fans Should Revisit This Underrated 2007 Comedy


Summary

  • Hot Rod
    is a humor-packed love letter to stunt performers, unfurling an absurd plot with non-stop jokes and surprising heart.
  • The Lonely Island trio’s brand of humor is crass but sincere, pushing comedy to absurd heights without losing audience connection.
  • In a time of dwindling studio comedies,
    Hot Rod
    stands out as a hilarious testament to dreamers, delivering laughs and heart.



The reign of Ryan Gosling continues. After being Oscar-nominated for one of his best comedic performances in Barbie, stealing the entire Oscar ceremony with his “I’m Just Ken” performance, and giving SNL its best ratings in three years, Gosling is next set to dominate the world of stuntmen. The Fall Guy releases this weekend, and by all accounts, it’s one of the best TV-to-film adaptations of the last several years, a showcase for its immensely charming leads, and a loving tribute to the tireless work stunt performers deal with daily (seriously Oscars, give them a category).


What’s particularly refreshing about stuntman-centric films is that they’re malleable enough to adapt to several different genres; they can be tense and brutal like Drive or sleazy and schlocky like Death Proof. But one of the best of them is also one of the most endearingly dumb comedies of the 2000s. Beloved comedy trio The Lonely Island gave the world Hot Rod back in 2007, and while it received a mixed reception at the time, the years have been incredibly kind to it, and it stands today as a laugh riot and a surprising love letter to stunt performers and their crazy dreams.


Andy Samberg in One of His Funniest Roles in Hot Rod

hot rod

hot rod

Release Date
August 3, 2007

Runtime
88


As with most Lonely Island ventures, the plot for Hot Rod primarily functions as a backdrop for a joke-a-minute delivery system. In comedies like this, a minimal plot is perfectly excusable when the jokes are landing (The Lonely Island’s masterpiece, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, one of the best mockumentaries ever) and only feels lazy when the jokes don’t land (most of the 2000s Movie movies). Thankfully, while not everything works, Hot Rod falls into the former category.

But as for what plot there is, it centers around wannabe stuntman Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg), who has a strained relationship with his stepfather Frank (Deadwood’s Ian McShane). The two regularly get into unprompted sparring matches, but their connection is put to the test when Frank falls gravely ill and needs a heart transplant. Distraught at the prospect of losing his stepfather without gaining his approval, Rod plans his biggest stunt ever – a motorcycle jump over 15 school buses, intending to use the donation money to fund the surgery.


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As mentioned, the plot regularly sidetracks on bizarre comedic tangents. However, the main subplot involves Rod enlisting help from his half-brother Kevin (fellow Lonely Island member Jorma Taccone) to drive up attendance for the jump. They release a video compilation of Rod’s stunts online, but since most of the stunts involve failed jumps and almost total humiliation on Rod’s end, a rift forms between them. Soon after, they make up in the film’s most bizarre set piece, in which the two repeat the phrase “cool beans” to one another in increasingly nonsensical ways.


Despite the framework being as loose as can be for a comedy, it somehow holds together. Much of this comes from the surprising sincerity with which the Lonely Island treats the material; while they realize Rod is not very good at what he does, they understand and empathize with his passion for being one of the greats. As such, when Rod’s climactic jump goes in his favor, it’s treated as a genuine moment of triumph for him. For as deeply silly a film as Hot Rod is, it secretly has a heart as big as that of Ed Wood.

The Lonely Island at Their Best in Hot Rod

Hot Rod’s inception is almost as strange as the movie itself. The script was written by Pam Brady, a former South Park writer, and it was intended to be a star vehicle for Will Ferrell, who at the time was in the middle of his legendary SNL run. For reasons that have never come to light, the project stayed in limbo for several years until well after Ferrell had left the show and moved on to an ultra-successful film career. But things finally started to pick up in 2005, when Andy Samberg joined the cast lineup and was hired as the star shortly after his Digital Short, “Lazy Sunday,” became an unexpected sensation on the then-fledgling YouTube.


Since the script had been specifically written for Will Ferrell, Samberg and his fellow Lonely Island members, Taccone and Akiva Schaffer (who would also direct the film), extensively rewrote the project to better fit their sensibilities. They were openly inspired by the likes of Wet Hot American Summer, which had a similarly bizarre sense of humor and was structured as a series of loosely connected set pieces. Adding even more irony to the situation was that, around this time, Ferrell was in his own string of sports-based comedies.

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The Lonely Island’s brand of humor prides itself on being juvenile and crass, but the key to its success is its bluntness. The trio can push comedic situations to an absurd endpoint without feeling disdainful of their audience, and while they fly fast and fancy with F-bombs and sex jokes, they utilize them to a degree without feeling mean-spirited or overly filthy. It’s telling that most of their songs, dirty as they are, actually directly ridicule frat boy culture in comparison to the likes of The Hangover, which celebrates it.

More importantly, their comedy style has an odd sincerity behind it. For example, the underrated Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping puts 21st-century pop music through the meat grinder but affectionately. The songs written for the film sound close enough to pass as the real thing, assuming one doesn’t pay attention to the lyrics. This affectionate brand of humor is a large part of what makes Hot Rod so great; while it shamelessly stops the plot dead in its tracks just for the sake of a laugh (Rod’s overly long tumble down a hill is particularly gut-busting), it doesn’t matter when the laughs come as consistently as they do.


Hot Rod Is an Underrated Comedy Gem

In an age in which the studio comedy pipeline has dwindled to a trickle, Hot Rod holds up remarkably well as a laugh riot that doesn’t require much brain thought but also doesn’t feel insulting to the viewer’s intelligence. On top of that, it’s a surprisingly loving testament to aspiring stunt performers (or any other dreamers, for that matter) who work to make their dreams a reality against all odds. If The Fall Guy leaves you eager to keep feeding your stuntman fix, now’s the perfect time to revisit Hot Rod. Hot Rod is streaming on PlutoTV, and The Fall Guy is playing in theaters now.


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