On last week's Tolerability Index, I described the upcoming Hot Rod as "Talledega Blades Of Semi Pro with Andy Samberg as Will Ferrell."
According to this
profile of Samberg in this week's' New York Magazine, that description is a lot more accurate than I realized:
The original script was written by Pam Brady, a former South Park writer, and it follows a formula that's familiar to comedy fans: the faux heartwarming sports movie. Samberg plays Rod Kimble, a wannabe stuntman who plans one big jump to raise the money to save his ailing stepfather. Substitute "stuntman" with "ice dancer" and it could be Blades of Glory; substitute "NASCAR driver" and it could be Talladega Nights. (The list goes on: Dodgeball is essentially the same story except about dodgeball, and the forthcoming Balls of Fury focuses on ping-pong.)
The script had languished at Paramount for years. It was originally attached to Will Ferrell back when he was on SNL, but it never got off the ground. (Rumor has it the studio worried that Ferrell couldn't carry a movie. Oops.) After "Lazy Sunday," Lorne Michaels convinced Paramount to make it with Samberg, and [Akiva] Schaffer directing.
So Andy Samberg really is playing Will Ferrell. But there's more:
"The amazing thing is they said okay," says Michaels. "Akiva had never directed film, let alone a feature, and Andy had never really been in a movie, let alone starred in one. But I thought this could be a different generation's comedy."
Right. A comedy for a generation that is completely unfamiliar with Will Ferrell and that isn't tired of the Talledega-Blades-Of-Dodgeball formula yet. In other words, a generation that doesn't exist. That kind of a different generation. But even though Lorne Michaels sees Hot Rod as a "comedy for a different generation," Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer see the movie as something very different: a sort of entry-level comedy movie internship. It's not a movie they really want to work for, but hopefully it'll lead to real jobs with movies they do want to work for:
Hot Rod might not be the movie Samberg and Schaffer would ideally make, but the hope is that if it's a hit, it will give them the chance to make their ideal movie. "The studio knew that if they put someone in an Evel Knievel costume, whether it's Will Ferrell or Dane Cook or Andy Samberg, then they've got a poster," says Schaffer. "And they wanted a PG-13 movie, like a Dodgeball. I think within those confines, we did pretty well."
As for Samberg, he seems genuinely confounded about Hot Rod's prospects. He's proud of the weird stuff that made it in, yet mourns the even weirder jokes that didn't, like one in which he "jokingly" asks his younger brother to whip out his wiener. (As you can tell, he's quite fond of the surprise appearance of dongs.) He says he'd love to make another movie after this one, with a smaller budget, that's as weird as they want it to be. "My favorite movies, almost across the board, are not the biggest box-office hits," he says, citing Wet Hot American Summer, a cult hit from the guys in Stella. "But if you're not prepared for that kind of comedy, which by its nature is designed to fuck around with what's expected from a movie, it's off-putting. People are like, 'I don't get it, dude. What was it even about?' And I'm like, 'I know! It didn't make any sense at all!'?" When he and Taccone and Schaffer were storming the streets of L.A. with a camera, there was no one to pull them back. "But with a movie," he says, "it's definitely about figuring out that balance: between stuff that's satisfying to your core weirdness and stuff that's accessible. There's validity to both sides." Then he laughs. "But when it's a Paramount movie, it's more on one side."
In other words, come and watch us pay our dues in the very accessible, not-as-funny-as-it-could-have-been movie that Paramount wanted us to make, so we can make something weird and actually funny next time! But at least they're honest. Really, they should have made "within those confines, we did pretty well" the tagline on the poster.