Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hot Rod (Akiva Schaffer, 2007)

On the surface, Hot Rod looks like another bad Saturday Night Live spin-off. When I picked up a free preview screening pass at a record store yesterday for a showing yesterday night, I was pretty psyched (free movie and all), but not expecting great things. I think these past two seasons of Saturday Night Live, the last one especially, have been really solid all-around, but Andy Samberg is not one of my favorite cast members. I was expecting a quasi-funny, broad, stupid comedy, but what I got was a funny, broad, stupid comedy with surprising brains and teeth. Apparently the original script was written for Will Ferrell in his SNL heyday, but Lorne Michaels held onto it until he found a talent to star in it. Samberg is really perfect in the role as enthusiastic man-child Rod Kimball, who decides to save his dying stepfather (so he can kick his ass in a fight) by jumping fifteen school buses on his moped.

Everything about the movie, from the premise to the soundtrack to the awesome posters, very deliberately evokes 80s comedies, but when was the last time you saw an uplifting montage turn into an incredibly violent riot? Or a grilled cheese fighting with a taco? Samberg and the other Lonely Island guys (one co-starring, one directing, and all three having rewritten the script) inject 21st century humor into the retro concept, with pretty solid results. Sure, Samberg falls down a hill, but he falls and falls and falls and falls and keeps falling for about thirty seconds until you have to laugh. All the acting is pretty good; Samberg does smirk and pose a bit too much for my tastes, but Bill Hader, along with Jorma Taccone (a Lonely Island guy) and Danny McBride, are pitch-perfect as Rod's crew. Isla Fisher is cute and likeable, as always. Will Arnett and Chris Parnell both have funny, though too-brief cameos.

Watching the movie, I realized this is the first major film by people who have been influenced by movies like Anchorman and Wet Hot American Summer. Maybe that's why I liked this movie surprisingly much, because the filmmakers and stars are coming from the same place I am. The fact that Rod is a stupid, and even mean-spirited at times, hero, takes the film out of total cliche territory and brings something new to the retro-nostalgia genre. Even though the humor is just too broad for me at times, I definitely recommend this movie.


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