Before completely writing me off, I know it must seem a bit strange to compare an Oscar-nominated and award-winning film with a small movie that flew under even the cultiest radar in 2007. But hear me out: I absolutely think that "The Wrestler," while maybe not inspired by, was preceded in theme by the Andy Samberg movie "Hot Rod."
Do you even remember "Hot Rod"? Here -- allow me to tell you why you should, because there is a chance that you'll want to see it after reading this blog. And yes, that may be overestimating my own powers as a writer. Anyway, it was released in August 2007 -- Oscar season! No, not at all. It starred the then-sorta-new guy on "Saturday Night Live," Andy Samberg. The one with the hair. Trying and failing to jump over things on a moped. You probably wondered, Why the hell do they keep putting these schmucks in movies and then expect us to pay money to see it? Honestly, not many people did. But this was before the SNL Digital Shorts really hit it big. (True, "D*** in a Box" aired in December 2006, but despite the hilariously analytical and serious profile on Wikipedia, there just weren't enough believers to head to the box office for a full-length movie. Hmph. Maybe because Wikipedia sucked all the fun out of "D***in a Box.")
But here, now, is why "Hot Rod" is like "The Wrestler." In the broadest sense, both Randy "The Ram" Robinson (played by Mickey Rourke) and Rod "The...Rod" Kimble (played by Samberg) are both hell bent on following their true passions, even if it means risking their lives for it. Both characters are told they can't be what they feel they were destined to be -- Randy, a Wrestler, Rod, a Stuntman. Pursuing what they feel they truly have to be batters them, shatters their confidence, hurts their relationships, imprisons their hair...but they do it anyway. They just can't find happiness anywhere else, and even when they are told it's just not who they can be, it doesn't matter.
For anyone with a passion, it's inspiring. Go ahead and laugh, but for those of us who feel we were born to Write, Act, Parent, Invent, Rescue, Cure, Fly to the Moon...how many of us actually do it? Randy and Rod did it. They might be fictional characters in an imaginary storybook land, but hell's bells - they did what they had to do. It should light a spark in all of us, even if our only passion right now is to Be Satisfied.
This may be a silly, James Lipton-y way to review a movie like "Hot Rod," but now that the boys behind it -- The Lonely Island -- are becoming A Big Deal, I thought it would be a good time to give the movie a chance at life again. Because it's awesome, everyone is really funny, it's a lot less heavy than "The Wrestler," there are bitchin' stunts, and Andy Samberg is seriously adorable. (I said it. I'm not sorry.) If you like the SNL Digital Shorts, then behold the first full-length effort by Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer.* And also visit their site and get their album, "Incredibad."
The rest of the similarities are just wild, like that whole Lincoln-Kennedy connection conspiracy. Besides the overlying theme, there is undying reverence for '80s music, old school event fliers, strained family relationships, and friends who are supportive but are horrible role models. But look at these:
*Both Randy and Rod gallop into a wooded glen and leave under painful, less than ideal circumstances. (Though only one features a "Footloose" homage. I'll let you guess which one. "The Wrestler!" Ha, no it's not.)
*Both puke after going a bit too far. Both also appear to puke the same color, which is, admittedly, gross and not noteworthy.
*Both have women who support them throughout the movie, but can't love them until the very end, when they may or may not survive what they are about to do.
*Both nearly die, though only one experience includes a character looking like a Bee Gee. (Again, "The Wrestler." Ha, no, lied again!)
*Both movies feature graphic incidents with industrial tools.**
*Both movies feature old school Dodge Ram vans! That was proof enough for me. Darren Aronofsky, you total hack. (Not lying, but kidding! Definitely kidding.)
Truly, if you've been feeling bad about yourself lately, if you've been feeling like you can't make it out of the toilet bowl of life you've been swimming around in, go see "The Wrestler." You will see a guy who has been through everything, left for dead, and doesn't care. Because he's a Wrestler, he'll always be a Wrestler, and if he has to, he'll die a Wrestler. (And Mickey Rourke lives up to the hype, in case you were wondering.) Then, after that, follow it up with a "Hot Rod" chaser. You will see a guy who is completely, ridiculously not a Stuntman but swears he is, and he'll risk life and limb trying to prove it.***
*To be honest, all the Lonely Island guys are a pretty cute package.
**This is what I believe could ultimately sell people on seeing "Hot Rod."
***I thought I would hate Andy Samberg after seeing "Hot Rod." Hate. I didn't. I went from hate to Great Big Heart. You could too!