The Hammer: B-List TV Star Adam Carolla Ain't So Bad

Adam Carolla is one of those journeymen comics you kinda know from television—on MTV's old Loveline sex-advice show, on Crank Yankers, and frequently pressing his ass into Jimmy Kimmel's couch. It's a strange résumé for this first foray into Indieville. Yet somehow he hooked up with the Kissing Jessica Stein crew (director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, co-star Heather Juergensen), and he acquits himself with nice restraint. Playing a 40-year-old L.A. carpenter who takes another swing at amateur boxing 20 years after retiring his gloves, Carolla draws heavily on his own life story. Likely for that reason, he's pretty relaxed about selling the familiar underdog tale. Bits of what one suspects is his stand-up routine he treats mostly as throwaway asides. At times, he seems to be playing second banana to himself, shrinking from the limelight that the Jim Carreys of this world need, like oxygen, to survive. Being so relaxed in a regular-guy persona, however, could use the jolt of a more irregular script. The Hammer drops in a winking musical cue from "Eye of the Tiger," but Rocky goes oddly unmentioned; and the elastic in that old story template is considerably saggier than Carolla's waist. His multiethnic posse of fellow gym rats is no less amiable and predictable. When Jane Lynch appears in a cameo to argue with Carolla about galvanized nails in the Home Depot checkout line, you wish she'd pursue Juergensen, too, and force the movie out of its comfortable corner of the ring.

 
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