Hot Air, written by Will Reichel and directed by Frank Coraci (The Wedding Singer, Click) is a new dramedy set in the volatile landscape of political talk radio. A mostly average film turned pretty good by a great performance from British comedian Steve Coogan (Alan Partridge, The Trip), this is a pretty entertaining and heartwarming watch.
The movie is about a talk show host whose life is turned upside down when his niece comes into his life unexpectedly. This is a pretty run-of-the-mill family drama story (though the film isn’t exactly family-friendly), and the main arc in this regard is very predictable. However, it is the movie’s subplots that are more interesting and enjoyable to watch.
The protagonist’s experiences as a political talk radio host are very interesting, particularly if you have ever listened to any shows similar to that. In this day and age, when anyone with an opinion and a computer can effectively become a “radio host” by starting a podcast, this film about the dangers of partisanship feels especially relevant and true.
Additionally, the character development of the movie is quite good. Although you can tell where his redemption arc is going — since there’s really only one way a redemption arc can go — the protagonist is a compelling character. Watching a grumpy and stuck-up person bust out of their shell is always interesting, and this film offers that aplenty.
The emotional impact of the movie is quite strong too. Granted, some of the beats in the film feel forced, such as those occurring in the second act involving the protagonist’s niece, they still warm the heart more than you would expect. Even though the premise may not seem like it lends itself to it, this is a heartwarming and feel-good movie.
The area in which this movie does seem to be lacking is its humor. Although there are a handful of funny moments, the film is never hilarious, which is a bit disappointing given the sheer amount of comedic talent behind and in front of the camera. The focus is on the emotional story, but for a movie set in this world, there should have been more biting political satire.
That said, Steve Coogan’s charm and wit goes a long way in making the film more enjoyable and lending it the humor that it does have. Perhaps one of the funniest comedians working today, Coogan can elevate whatever he is in simply by being a part of it. He’s such a joy to watch, especially in lead roles like this in which he gets to show his range. The movie also features Neve Campbell in a supporting role, and although she isn’t given much to do, it is nice to see her getting roles like this again.
On a technical level, the film is fine but straightforward. It would have been nice had a bit more been done in building the world within the movie. As is, the sets for Lionel Macomb’s radio show feel very generic. Had the film done a bit more to build his brand within the world, it could have made the movie feel more immersive and even more believable.
Refreshingly heartwarming and featuring a great performance by Steve Coogan, Hot Air may not be as good as it could have been, but it is still an enjoyable watch. Anything that gives Coogan a chance to shine as the lead is worth watching.
Hot Air hits theaters and VOD on August 23.