Will Ferrell's fingerprints are all over the screenplay for Hot Rod (PG-13), but he passed on the project. Apparently playing another open-throttle boob like Ricky Bobby didn't suit his career plans.
The script tumbled down to Andy Samberg, another Saturday Night Live comedian not yet in Ferrell's league. Samberg's best contributions to SNL are two digital video efforts: Lazy Sunday, which almost made The Chronicles of Narnia cool, and the Emmy-nominated (I can't believe I'm typing that) D--- in a Box with Justin Timberlake.
Samberg plays Rod Kimble, a clumsy stunt motorcyclist attempting to clear 15 school buses, so he can earn enough money for his stepfather's (Ian McShane) heart transplant. Academy Award winner Sissy Spacek appears (I can't believe I'm typing that, either) as Rod's doting mother.
Samberg's SNL castmates Chris Parnell and Bill Hader pop into the picture, while Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers) and Will Arnett (Blades of Glory) may carry over fans of their work. In a crowded late-summer season, Hot Rod needs the help.
Steve Persall, Times film critic
THIS TIRED DOG HASN'T CHANGED ITS SPOTS
The dog days of summer are here and with them comes Underdog (PG), a live action adaptation of the 1960s TV cartoon. Purists may consider that a need to fear.
Jason Lee (My Name Is Earl) provides the voice for the super-powered beagle and its digitally moving mouth. Amy Adams (Junebug) voices the hero's girlfriend, Polly Purebred. The gimmick is as old as Babe and possibly still as appealing to children as Cats and Dogs and the Garfield flicks.
Flesh-and-blood actors in supporting roles include Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent) as the nefarious Dr. Simon Barsinister. James Belushi is an old dog familiar with these interspecies tricks after K-9 and two straight-to-video sequels.
Disney did not screen Underdog for critics.