“Hot Rod” Performs Some Stunts With Synths
Ed. note: Today, we introduce “VHS Or Beta?”, a new column in which Andy Beta looks at the music behind the movies–from preserved-by-Criterion classics to completely inane summer blockbusters. In his opening column, he takes on the soundtrack to the Andy Samberg comedy Hot Rod, which, alas, is “Dick In A Box”-free.
The perils of going to a movie bearing the disclaimer “A Lorne Michaels Production” should be well-known by anyone who dared see A Night at the Roxbury or It’s Pat: The Movie (though Mr. Michaels scrubbed his hands clean of the latter). While Saturday Night Live skits max out at one joke, such a whole number gets decimated for the full-length feature films of the show’s alums. Until our nation’s leading screenwriters can yank “Dick in a Box” into 79 minutes worth of screen time, we are forced to watch Andy Samberg taking on a role even Will Ferrell wouldn’t fuck with someone else’s dick–the brain-damaged, glandular-challenged stuntman Rod Kimble, a.k.a. Hot Rod.
As an admitted fan of both Jackass and Super Dave Osborne, bearing witness to physical calamities befalling doofuses in jumpsuits effortlessly dislodges “OOF!”s with machine-gun outbursts of pained laughter, a formula as tried, true, and All-American as a crotch shot on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Alas, today’s focus isn’t on the foreboding sight of a wee child wielding a wiffle-ball bat as he nears his khakied father, or Samberg’s Rod Kimble caught mid-air in trajectory towards the business end of a plywood ramp, but Hot Rod‘s soundtrack itself.
Emblazoned with a sticker that screams “Cool Beans! 23 smokin’ tracks from this summer’s c-c-coolest flick!”, should you miss that inane phrase from the ’80s, the stuttering cut-n-paste movie dialogue over a processed mac-n-cheese beat (track 16: “Cool Beans”) will make it stick. While weighing in with only eleven real tracks, a sure sign that said decade has been strip-mined of comedic gold in Hot Rod is the inclusion of not one, not two, but four songs from hapless hairsprayed pussies Europe.
Before you respond with “Wow, that’s three more Europe songs than even I remember!” realize that none of the Europe songs within is “The Final Countdown.” No less an expert on hair metal than Idolator’s own Maura K. Johnston decried the band’s over-indulgence on synths to prop up their pomposity and dearth of crunchy hair-metal licks. That said, we will cop to the cultural ubiquity of “The Final Countdown,” its canned-horn fanfare being deployed both by international spies on The Conet Project and as a sign that one of Gob Bluth II’s awesome magic tricks is coming on Arrested Development. (The woeful guest appearance of Will Arnett in Hot Rod only accentuates the agonizing void left by that show’s cancellation.) But what malfunctioning of the irony machine over the past twenty years suddenly makes “Danger on the Track,” “Cherokee,” “Rock the Night,” or “Time Has Come” into rockers? And why leave off “Ninja”?
Perhaps that over-reliance on Michael Michaeli’s synth work that wussifies Europe does bolster other crucial aspects of the soundtrack. In one befuddling non sequitur of a scene wherein Rod Kimble’s cronies bust a move in a parking lot, Stacey Q’s “Two of Hearts” pumps in the background; the song is seemingly included for no reason other than to have this Hi-NRG classic on a CD released this year (though Stacey’s glitchy refrain of “I-I-I-I-I need you” does echo “Cool Beans”). The pinnacle of the soundtrack, though, comes when Kimble trains for The Big Jump to the epic arpeggios of Giorgio Moroder’s “Chase” (itself pilfered from the soundtrack to Midnight Express). It’s also the most plausible scene in a movie otherwise stuffed with unfunny inanities like Rhodesian fighting sticks, tai chi moves that cause pants-crapping, AM radio tattoos, and an appearance from Ebenezer Scrooge–if only because I too train to this particular jam.