As if radio and television host and now "Dancing With the Stars" contestant Adam Carolla hadn't already proved himself multidimensional, here comes "The Hammer."
Carolla, a former carpenter and boxer, stars in this likable comedy about a carpenter and boxer who gets another shot in the ring at age 40.
Footwork-wise, Carolla is better in the gym than on the dance floor. Personality-wise, he's wonderfully consistent throughout all his ventures - deadpan, self-effacing and quick with a grin to defuse the potentially offensive aspects of his shtick.
Carolla is winning in "The Hammer," which evokes "Rocky" and just about every other lovable-loser sports movie while showing enough comic originality to hold interest throughout. Carolla, screenwriter Kevin Hench and director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld ("Kissing Jessica Stein") offer visual gags that conceal, for long stretches, just how thin the story is.
Carolla's character, a recently fired carpenter named Jerry, instructs upwardly mobile folks who take boxing lessons when not doing yoga. The gym scenes highlight Carolla's boxing skills and allow him to goof at the same time.
Carolla is a highly skilled rope-skipper and an even more impressive grunter, as he shows during a scene in which Jerry tries to show off for a pretty boxing student named Lindsay ( Heather Juergensen, from "Jessica Stein"). Because he's listening to his MP3 player, he's unaware of the weird noises he's making.
After old-school trainer Eddie Bell (Tom Quinn) sees Jerry spar, he urges the former amateur contender - who hung up his gloves as a young man to devote more time to smoking pot and playing video games - to try out for the Olympics. This development irks top contender Robert Brown (a confidence-exuding Harold "House" Moore), who promptly insults Jerry at every opportunity. He wonders, for instance, how Jerry can be skinny and fat at the same time.
In his attempt to finally reach his potential in the ring, Jerry can count at least one person in his corner: his pal and fellow carpenter Ozzie, played by Carolla's real-life friend and radio cohort Oswaldo Castillo, who met Carolla years ago when both worked in construction. Carolla and Castillo share a delightful comic chemistry.
Juergensen, by contrast, mostly serves as straight woman to Carolla. In one especially funny scene between them, Jerry, having persuaded Lindsay to go on a date with him in his jacked-up pickup, instructs her on the truck's quirks.
Sure, most of us have, in our lifetimes, experienced moments entailing bungee cords and vehicles that have no business on the road. But never past the age of 20 and never on the big screen.
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