“HOT AIR”: Bellicosity

“HOT AIR” My rating: C (Opens Aug. 23 at the Studio 28) 99 minutes | No MPAA rating
Published August 15, 2019 by Robert W. Butler at Butler’s Cinema Scene

Given our current political climate you’d expect a movie about a right-wing radio pundit to have at least a little bite.

“Hot Air,” though, is a particularly toothless affair.

Scripted by Will Reichel directed by Frank Coraci (“The Wedding Singer,” “The Waterboy”), this film offers the spectacle of Steve Coogan — perhaps our greatest portrayer of supercilious asshattery — as radio blowhard Lionel Macomb, a self-described “deliverer of hard truths” who daily takes on liberal women (“I prefer to go by only one last name”), immigrants (“I don’t think we should build a wall… a moat would be more effective”), climate change and socialized medicine.

He’s been pretty successful at this, as shown by his posh high-rise apartment and impeccably tailored wardrobe.

Of course, he is so hated in some quarters that Lionel can only walk to his car from his broadcast center flanked by a phalanx of bodyguards.

Into Lionel’s toxic world comes a breath of fresh air…his 16-year-old niece Tess (Taylor Russell) whom he has never met.  Tess’ mom, Lionel’s estranged sister, is an off-and-on druggie currently in rehab.  Young Tess pretty much blackmails Lionel into giving her a place to stay…it wouldn’t look good if a millionaire who rails constantly about welfare cheats throws his own flesh and blood into the welfare system.

Over the course of the film Tess is befriended by Lionel’s girlfriend/publicist (Neve Cambell) and is given a job working in the radio studio where she can observe her uncle at close range.

Currently Lionel is in a ratings war with a former protege (Skylar Astin) who has developed his own right-wing rant with a religious slant.

It takes no Pulitzer Prize in Drama to predict that Tess will help her uncle see the liberal light (or at least glimpse it), beat the competition and get in touch with his own long-smothered emotions.

Coogan is actually quite effective as Lionel, while young Russell offers a charismatic and watchable presence.

Problem is, “Hot Air” lacks a point of view. Its namby-pamby approach is devoid of conviction.

Nor does it qualify as satire, an endeavor that requires a dose of righteous indignation sadly lacking here. In fact, it’s not really a comedy…at least not according to the  laughs it generates.

More like an after-school special with a potty mouth.

Despite a few zinger lines torn from today’s political debate (although the words “Donald Trump” are never uttered), this is one unconvincing argument.

| Robert W. Butler

Read the original review and more reviews at Butler’s Cinema Scene

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Robert W. Butler for 41 years reviewed films for the Kansas City Star. In May 2011 he was downsized.

He couldn’t take the hint.

OKAY, so here’s the deal. I write mostly about movies. One good thing about no longer writing for the paper is that I’m free to ignore the big dumb Hollywood turkeys that don’t interest me. So don’t expect every blessed release to be written about here. Many films aren’t worth the effort. Besides, at my age it’s not the $8. It’s the two hours.

UPDATE: OCTOBER, 2014: Well, here’s an interesting twist. The Star wants me back as a freelance film reviewer!!! Apparently enough time has passed that they cannot be accused of firing me so that they can rehire me at a fraction of my original pay (I gather the federal government frowns upon that practice.) So from now on I will probably be reviewing a movie a week for the newspaper.