Hot Air

Movie review by
Tom Cassidy, Common Sense Media
Hot Air Movie Poster Image
Ill-judged redemption tale; language, sex, addiction issues.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 99 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Some examples of hard work and staying strong in the face of adversity. Adultery. Bigoted views are expressed, but are eventually rejected by the perpetrator.

Positive Role Models

Outspoken right-wing radio host Lionel McComb is a wealthy celebrity who whips listeners into a frenzy with bigoted opinions. He lives a selfish and adulterous life before becoming enlightened by spending time with his niece, Tess. Tess is an intelligent and confident teen who won an education scholarship, despite having struggled with a substance-addicted mother. Lionel's partner, Val, looks out for Tess and defends her against Lionel's initial rudeness and dismissal.


Character loses their temper, smashing a mug and later throwing a remote at their TV, smashing the screen. A movie theater crowd throws items at a character. Some hate speech. Character tells a story about an adult carer flicking cigarette butts at them when they were young.


Sex scene involves a character in just their underwear on top of another. A character is seen naked with just a pillow covering their genitals. Character talks in a derogatory way about someone's sex life.


Hate speech. Frequent language includes "f--k," "bulls--t," "Jesus Christ," "s--t," "goddamn," "a--hole," "pr--k," "f--ked," "pissed off," and "twat."


Wealthy character's lavish lifestyle on display. Character is given a boxed Apple iPhone as a present. Scene in a Bentley is shot like a car ad. Character mentions a well-known celeb gossip site. Polaroid camera features.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Character struggles with alcohol and drug addiction -- spends some time in rehab. Characters drink alcohol with a meal and at a club.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hot Air is a redemption story about a bigoted radio host and contains strong language throughout. Lionel McComb (Steve Coogan) whips up his radio audiences with right-wing rhetoric and imagined threats to the United States. In contrast, McComb's estranged niece, Tess (Taylor Russell), who comes to live with him, is a positive role model, remaining cool, confident, resourceful and achieving educational success despite her issues at home. Her mother's addiction issues are discussed regularly in the movie and caused her brother to cut ties with her. A character loses their temper and twice damages property. As well as bigoted views, there is also frequent bad language, including "s--t," "pr--k," and variants of "f--k." During a sex scene, a woman in her underwear is on top of a man, who is then naked in the scene except for a strategically placed pillow. A woman's sex life is spoken about in derogatory terms. McComb lives a wealthy and lavish life, and subsequently there are a number of high-value products -- cellphones and cars -- that are displayed throughout.

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What's the story?

In HOT AIR, Lionel McComb (Steve Coogan) enjoys a wealthy and lavish lifestyle, thanks to his work as a popular outspoken right-wing radio host. But when his 16-year-old niece, Tess (Taylor Russell), comes looking for a place to stay, he is forced to confront his prejudices and his own family history.

Is it any good?

Coogan has already proved that an opinionated, unlikable radio DJ character can be a recipe for success with his beloved comedy character Alan Partridge. In Hot Air, Coogan plays a different opinionated, unlikable radio DJ: New York based right-wing shock jock Lionel McComb. And it's a resounding failure. McComb is a toothless caricature in an out of touch movie. But the first hurdle is Coogan's accent. Originally an impressionist, Coogan's baffling inability to nail down the broadest of U.S. accents jars throughout.

Surface level problems aside -- and there are many, from distracting continuity errors to vacuous walk and talk sections down corridors to nowhere -- the story's out of date remedy kills any emotional impact. The idea that all it takes for a bigot to change their ways is to spend time with the right young, polite, and intelligent person of color is not only badly pitched but poorly executed. The brief relationship between McComb's niece, Tess, and partner Val (Neve Campbell) is a warm and likable friendship. Sadly that's the only compelling thing about this movie.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the character of Lionel McComb in Hot Air. Did he seem believable to you? Have you heard anyone in real life who resembles him? Why do you think this kind of radio presenting often finds an audience?

  • Discuss the strong language used in the movie. Did it seem necessary or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie?

  • How did the movie portray sex? Was it affectionate? Respectful? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • How well does the movie deal with issues around alcohol and drug addiction? What impact does Tess' mother's struggles have on Tess? How does she deal with it?

  • McComb makes a lot of fake claims on his radio show. What do you understand "fake news" to mean? Why must we be careful of it? What can be done to prevent the spread of it?

Movie details

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