Movie News & Reviews

'The Hammer' a surprising hit from Carolla

For us showbiz types, the biggest threat we face is getting typecast.These days I can't break into Gerard Butler's office to steal a scriptwithout getting typed as the walking slab of brawn who gets all theexercise I need just throwing hysterical chicks away from me.

I feel like Adam Carolla's gotten typed on the other end of thespectrum. If you know him from Crank Yankers or The ManShow, or as the guy who used to fart into the mike onLoveline (good times), you probably wouldn't think he's capableof brushing his teeth without attacking that stranger in the mirror,let alone carrying the lead in a surprisingly good romantic comedylike 2007's The Hammer.

Fired from his construction job and dumped by his girlfriend,Carolla's future is looking dim until he's noticed sparring at the gymby Olympic boxing trainer Tom Quinn. Carolla thinks it's a last shotto dredge up his buried dreams, but Quinn's using him as nothing morethan a free training partner for his real talent, up-and-comingfighter Harold House Moore.

Oh, and meanwhile Carolla's wooing boxing student Heather Juergensen,which is where the romance comes in. With its attention so splitbetween love and mashing people's faces in, you'd think TheHammer would collapse like a drunk spider, but director CharlesHerman-Wurmfeld never lets one thread feel like an afterthought to theother.

Herman-Wurmfeld's got a good eye for editing, too, and editing is tocomedy what having dinner ready on time is to me not smacking mygirlfriend. Meanwhile, Carolla's answer to the zany dumbness of modernrom-coms is to go personal and low-key, grounding his observationalrants in blue-collar technical humor (he's actually been both acarpenter and a boxer) and constant but good-natured jabs atabsolutely everything.

That's all good in its own right, but what's even better is that itclears the way for some real poignancy throughout the third act, whenCarolla pushes on despite the hopelessness of his age and place.

Funny yet believable, sweet without ever pushing too hard, it's thenear-mythical romantic comedy that seems to have found equal appeal tomen and women. Carolla's been pigeonholed as something of an ignorantsidekick, but The Hammer proves that if you give him a shot, hewill deliver.