Hot Rod review by Rosie

Hot Rod

Oh, Andy. I really didn’t want to do this. I mean I really didn’t want to have to do this – as in I was consciously aware before I even began watching this movie that it would be unfair to do this. But you just wouldn’t let it go.

It’s been no secret to anyone familiar with your work that someone – whether it be yourself or Lorne Michaels – has long been trying to position you as SNL’s new “Adam Sandler guy”. And, in many ways, it’s an understandable effort and a natural comparison that would have been drawn either way. You do have a lot of obviously similar qualities: the goofy, harmless, kinda-cute-but-not-so-much-as-to- seem-unattainable-to-regular-girls look; the functional music skills and better than functional knack for musical satire, the air of awkward shyness when not in a character, the initials. Whether the similarities are natural or whether (as was openly suggested in the Saturday Night Live in the 90’s retrospective) you are simply one of an entire new wave of comics that have been trying hard to fill Adam’s shoes since he left, I will not speculate here. I might bet my house, eyebrows, future earnings and reproductive ability on which one I think it is in Vegas, but ‘speculate’ and ‘here’ – I will not. But I really, really, really didn’t want to just take the obvious route here and compare your first feature vehicle, Hot Rod, directly to the standard set by Adam’s, Billy Madison. I wanted to judge you on your own merits. I wanted to try to be more reasonable than that. But you just wouldn’t let it go.

With every randomly inserted musical number, you encouraged the comparisons yourself. With every fumblingly awkward scene with a way too hot for you love interest, you begged the comparisons yourself. And still all of those might be forgivable as general movie crutches of this genre, but with every cringingly transparent attempt to do the zero-to-a-hundred, “calm, cool, quiet guy loses his temper and flies into a hilariously over the top rage and then calms right down again” gimmick that Adam has always buttered his bread with, you pretty much drew a line in the sand, spit on it, and dared everyone to try to not make the comparisons. Well, Andrew, you aska, you getta. Here now is the definitive, straight up, head to head comparison of Hot Rod and Billy Madison. And may God have mercy on your career.

Hot Rod vs. Billy Madison: The Reckoning

Rules of the game: Each movie will be graded on a scale of 1 to 5 in five separate categories. A 1 represents the lowest possible score and generally indicates a factor of pure crapulescence. A 5 indicates the highest possible score and generally indicates a level of perfection equivalent to DaVinci’s perfect circle. The movie with the highest point total at the end of grading will be declared the greatest movie in the history of recorded time, including unrecorded time. In the interest of fairness and full disclosure, I will award Hot Rod a five-point handicap due to the fact that I am on record as an admitted Adam Sandler apologist and fan. Okay, ten points.

Category 1: General Premise
HR: Twenty-something Rod Kimble (Samberg), arrested in perpetual adolescence, pursues his lifelong dream of becoming a famous stuntman despite the fact that he is incredibly uncoordinated and bad at it. (5 points)

BM: Twenty-something Billy Madison (Sandler), arrested in perpetual prepubescence, pursues his lifelong dream of graduating high school despite the fact that he is incredibly stupid and bad at it. (5 points)

Advantage: Push

Category 2: Strength of Title Character
HR: Kimble feels like a superficial regurgitation of many of the same type of SNL actor-created movie characters before him, with little new to contribute to the genre aside from a slightly different occupational setting. (2 points)

BM: Madison, at the time this movie came out, was on the cutting edge of the new wave of moronic, low-brow characters about to flood the pop culture in his wake. More stupid and less violent than The Three Stooges, but less stupid and more violent than The Jerk, Billy Madison may not have been the most original character in movie history but he was at least the product of an honest and original effort by Sandler to find his own voice (unlike Kimble, who seems to be the result of Samberg trying to find Sandler’s voice. (5 points)

Advantage: Billy Madison

Category 3: Supporting Cast
HR: Someone named Jorma Taccone as Rod’s stepbrother, someone named Danny McBride as one of his semi-retarded buddies and fellow SNLer Bill Hader as the other one. Eh. (2 points)

BM: Someone named Jared Cook who hits a solid triple in movie history as the big-goggled third-grade nerd Ernie, and the inimitable Norm McDonald as one of Billy’s semi-retarded buddies. Ahhh. (5 points)

Advantage: Billy Madison

Category 4: Quotability
HR: Kimble’s catchphrases are not catchy but, perhaps true to his character, he painfully insists on forcing the issue and repeatedly presses them to try to make us forget that they’re not funny and start parroting them in Facebook quotes and online Halo missions ad nauseum. As in: “You’re number 1.” (Say, that’s a mildly unusual and humorous usage of that phrase.) “That’s number 1” (Ok, we get it. You say things are ‘number 1’, that’s your thing you do.) “It’s number 1.” (Kind of getting annoying, Samberg.) “He’s number 1.” (For the love of God will you stop saying that! Just shut up, please! Shut. Up.) “She’s number 1.”(Oh, HA! I get it – things are number 1! HAAAA, freaking sweet, bro. Dude, I gotta call my buddy Fish and drop that on him. ‘He’s number 1’, wow, that is freaking number 1!). (The number of points you get for this is number 1).

BM: The quotes and catchphrases Madison produced in this movie came fast, furious, and organically – almost never forced or repeated. Without requiring constant repetition, the vast majority of them took on a life of their own among fans based on their own merit (a term used very relatively in this context). Just off the top of my head:

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, Miss Lippy. The part of the story I don't like is that the little boy gave up looking for Happy after an hour. He didn't put posters up or anything, he just sat on the porch like a goon and waited. That little boy's gotta think 'You got a pet. You got a responsibility.' If your dog is lost you don't look for an hour then call it quits. You get your ass out there and you find that f*&#ing dog!”

“It's too damn hot for a penguin to be just walkin' around. I gotta send you back to the South Pole”

“He’s gonna be a soccer player. Yes he is, yes he is…”

“No I will not make out with you. Did ya hear that? This girl wants to make out with me in the middle of class. You got Chlorophyll Man up there talking about God knows what and all she can talk about is making out with me. I'm here to learn, everybody, not to make out with you. Go on with the chlorophyll.”

“Now you’re all in big, BIG trouble.”

“You know how badly I could beat you, right?”

“Stop looking at me, swan.”

And so on. I could go on with these for another three pages, but you get the point. It’s just no contest. If you want to make your own judgment just read this page versus this page, and you tell me which one is funnier. (5 points – One, two, three, four, five. Five points, in perfect counting. Got any more brain-busters?)

Advantage: Billy Madison

Category 5: Randomly inserted musical numbers
HR: Taking this page right out of Sandler’s old playbook, Samberg includes one random scene of him dancing to some cheesy 80’s song, and then another big, original musical number. Both were pretty lame, but in all fairness he did add a clever and somewhat self-deprecating twist to the ending of the musical number. Seeing as this was one of only six legitimate laughs I found in this movie (I actually started counting them just to have something to keep me interested), I’ll give him some bonus points for this. (3 points)

BM: Because it’s been done to death so many times since then (The Forty Year Old Virgin, anything produced by Lorne Michaels, etc.), we tend to forget now how funny these musical scenes in Billy Madison were at the time. He may not have invented this either but, again, it wasn’t overdone yet at the time and hadn’t been seen in a while. And more than a dozen years later, they still hold up as the gold standard of well-placed, well-executed, low-brow, juvenile schtick. Adam’s original cheesy 80’s dance scene out of nowhere was about a third as long as the ridiculous production in Hot Rod, and at least three times funnier. Let this be a lesson Andy, sometimes in comedy less is more. But in this contest, more is more, and Adam’s getting more points. (5 points)

Advantage: Billy Madison

Total Scores:
HR: 13 earned, +10 handicap = 23 points
BM: 25 points

Of course I like Billy Madison, everyone my age likes Billy Madison, it’s the coolest! And even with a ten point handicap, Hot Rod can’t measure up to the classic it fails miserably to recreate. Hey Hot Rod, you’re number 2! (That’s quacktastic. Quack, quack, quack.)

3 out of 10 Jackasses
blog comments powered by Disqus