Hot Rod received mixed reviews from film critics upon its initial release. On Metacritic, it has an average score of 43 out of 100, based on 27 reviews, signifying “generally mixed reviews”. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a score of 39% from 117 reviews, with an average rating of 4.92 / 10 . The site’s consensus reads “Hot Rod has brazen silliness and a few humorous set pieces on its side, but it’s far too inconsistent to satisfy all but the least demanding slapstick lovers”. After its release, Paper wrote, “Depending on whom you talk to, Hot Rod is either a terrible stinker or a really strange and wonderful movie that you can’t believe they got away with making.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Frank Scheck criticized the film’s “formulaic” script and humor, but commended Samberg’s “reasonably engaging and sweet comedic screen presence.” “No one seems to have told the Lonely Island boys that the stakes are a little higher in features than they are in music videos and that underlighted shots and sloppy editing are more distracting on the big screen than on television,” wrote Marjorie Baumgarten of The Austin Chronicle.Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe called the film “playfully dumb,” commenting, “The filmmakershave skipped right past the kitsch of tribute and gone straight for jokey delusion And in that sense, Hot Rod is post-parody, taking nothing seriously , not even being a movie. ” Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote, “The film’s low-key Wayne’s World vibe takes it only so far. I laughed, then I wished it was funnier, then I just wished it would end.Peter Debruge of Variety called the movie” yet another another example of a comedy that refuses to be taken seriously — concept as clothesline for all manner of silliness. “Nick Schager of Slant Magazine noted that the trio” care far less about clever plotting than random ridiculousness, “deeming the film” a tired rehash of every SNL alum’s big-screen debut since Adam Sandler’s Billy Madison. ”