Uneven, and alternating between hilarious and dumb, "HOT ROD" has enough going for it to recommend. Andy Samberg of "Saturday Night Live" is the lead in "HOT ROD," but it's Ian McShane, in the role of his stepfather, that raises the film to a different level, in its best moments. Samberg plays Rod, living with his mother and step-father, Frank. Rod is constantly trying to gain respect from Frank, who thinks Rod is a wimp, but it looks like the opportunities to prove himself have abruptly ended, when he finds Frank is dying. Rod is determined to gain money for his step-father's required surgery, by performing dangerous stunts. To say more would ruin the few decent surprises ahead.
"HOT ROD" doesn't know what it wants to be, veering between drama and comedy a bit too often, but when it's funny, it's typically very funny, and the younger teens we watched this with "LOVED" it, and have been re-watching it over and over and over!
PARAMOUNT has provided the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio(16:9 enhancement for dvd) for dvd and hd-dvd formats. The HD-DVD format receives a 1080p/AVC MPEG4 transfer. Regarding the dvd, the colors are restrained, and sometimes dull in appearance, giving the film a low-budget look. But, the contrast is quite good, allowing for consistent detail, even in darker scenes. Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes in English, Spanish and French are provided. Bass and surrounds are rarely used, save for boosting the great song tracks and in a few stunt scenes. Still, separation for the front is impressive and it's more lively than many "comedy" mixes.
The HD-DVD offers deeper, richer colors, and the image is more natural here than on the dvd. Depth is also notably improved, however, the image is still a bit soft in a variety of scenes.
PARAMOUNT has included options for Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD 5.1. After numerous scene-to-scene comparisons between the mixes, there was no discernible difference between the two, save for slightly deeper bass during some of the songs and in a stunt sequence. Both are impressive.
PARAMOUNT has provided the same ample amount of extras for both formats. An audio commentary with the director and Samberg and Jorma Taccone. It's a light-hearted track with some insight and memories of the filmmaking process, but nothing here overly worthwhile to recommend it. There are some deleted scenes, a music video, and a featurette.