Hot Air Falls Short Of Its Potential As Satire

Tess (Taylor Russell) and Lionel (Steve Coogan) in Hot Air. Courtesy of Freestyle Releasing.

Hot Air falls quite a bit short of its maximum potential in the political climate for satire especially with having a focus on conservative talk radio.

Lionel Macomb (Steve Coogan) is the host of Fired Up.  He’s had this job for 20 years.  Don’t get me wrong–the comic actor brings the right persona required for the job.  The important thing here for the film is that we’re able to buy into Coogan as a right-wing host.  He rants about the important issues at hand and even takes on a senator’s (Judith Light) Clean Slate Initiative.  But for all of Lionel’s talk and shaping a nationwide debate, he’s not where he used to be.  He’s no longer the go-to conservative host.  No, that title belongs to rising star and former protégé, Gareth Whitley (Skylar Astin).  Whitley comes off as the nicer person and there’s a story behind it, too.

Right when Lionel needs an image makeover or something, fate delivers…his 16-year-old niece, Tess (Taylor Russell).  Tess is the daughter of his sister, Laurie (Tina Benko). Together, the two definitely make for somewhat of an odd couple.  Once Tess enters the picture, she manages to throw Lionel off.  Lionel hasn’t really been in touch with his family over the years.  This even includes Lionel’s publicist, Valerie Gannon (Neve Campbell).  Anyway, Tess comes with issues of her own.  She has a scholarship offer to Harper Academy but her mother’s issues are causing a dilemma in its own right.  At the same time, Tess now has a relationship with her uncle.  It gives Lionel a newfound perspective on life.

If you knew nothing about the film, you would probably think that Tess would going to reveal herself as Lionel’s daughter upon meeting him.  This is one of those age-old cliches so the laughs are missing when Tess reveals herself to be his niece in the film’s opening minutes.  Speaking of laughs, there could certainly be more of them.

Today’s political climate also leads to a lot of opportunities for satire.  Unfortunately, this film doesn’t quite utilize the unlimited potential.  With the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and dare I even say it, Alex Jones, the sky is seemingly the limit.  Consider me disappointed because Hot Air absolutely misses the mark.

DIRECTOR: Frank Coraci
CAST: Steve Coogan, Taylor Russell, Neve Campbell, Griffin Newman, Pico Alexander, Tina Benko, Lawrence Gilliard, with Judith Light and Skylar Astin

Freestyle Releasing opens Hot Air in theaters, Digital, and VOD on August 23, 2019. Grade: 2.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.