Making the Grades
As an aspiring stuntman, Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) is like a little boy begging for someone to watch him do tricks on the playground. Whether it involves attempting to jump a van or clear a swimming pool on his moped, he's always looking for an audience. But the man he wants most to impress is his stepfather Frank (Ian McShane). In fact, Rod is willing to do just about anything to win the respect of the abusive man who regularly beats him under the pretext of building character.
However, the routine thumpings stop when Frank is diagnosed with a life threatening heart problem that leaves him wheezing on the couch and only weeks away from death. Unwilling to let Frank die without getting in the last punch and showing his stepfather he's a man, Rod decides to use his skills as a stuntman to earn the $50,000 needed for a transplant. Then once his dad is better, Rod will give him what's coming.
With his stepbrother (Jorma Taccone) as manager, Rod assembles a support team (Bill Hader, Danny R. McBride, Isla Fisher) to help with the money-earning project. Initially, he hires himself out as an entertainment option at children's parties and company functions where he lights himself on fire, takes a beating as a human pi--ata and is blown off a wooden tower. But his real ambition is to rival a feat of stunt veteran Evil Knievel by jumping 15 school buses. With the sponsorship from a local AM radio host (Chris Parnell), Rod and his team prepare to pull off the big event in front of a hometown crowd.
It's a desperate attempt at fame but then everything in this film feels desperate. Rod is desperate to prove himself a man. Frank is desperate to keep him from doing so. Rod's mom (Sissy Spacek) is desperate to hide the truth about her son's biological father. His friends are desperate to keep their spots on the team and the radio DJ is desperate to revive AM radio. Even the script feels desperate as it tries to create warm, fuzzy family moments while employing dangerous, outrageous gags, unprovoked violence, strong language and crude humor. With a mounting list of content concerns for family viewing, Rod's simple, ill-conceived stunts seem almost harmless by comparison.
Yet what's not harmless is the film's graphic, often shocking attempt at slapstick. Engulfing himself in flames, being smashed by a speeding van and tumbling down the mountainside, Rod's antics are as likely to cause gasps as giggles. Equally shocking is his hostile relationship with the stepfather he wants to heal only so he can harm. With very little that families can give an approving nod to, there's nothing hot about this Rod.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Hot Rod.
Considering the way Frank treats Rod, is it believable that Rod would want to have a relationship with him? What kind of relationship does Rod have with his stepbrother, Kevin? What challenges do blended families often face?
What truths about his biological father did Rod’s mother hide from him? What were her reasons for doing so?