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The Hammer

(2008) ** R
91 min. International Film Circuit. Director: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld. Cast: Adam Carolla, Ozzie Castillo, Heather Juergensen, Harold House, Johnathan Hernandez.

Adam Carolla fans will feel they've died and gone to heaven while watching The Hammer, penned by The Man Show writer Kevin Hench but given a distinctive improvisational polish by leading man Carolla. The radio host has the sharpest tongue in the West, and it serves him well in this otherwise flimsy, semi-biographical comedic variation on the Rocky myth and Carolla's own rise to C-list stardom. That real-life trajectory goes from being a Golden Glover and carpenter to hosting cult TV and radio shows and, lately, appearing on Dancing With the Stars.

When his life collapses on his fortieth birthday, construction worker and boxing-class instructor Jerry Ferro is convinced to give competitive boxing one more shot, under the dubious auspices of highly regarded coach Eddie Bell (Tom Quinn). Jerry's new purpose coincides with a new romance with one of his students (Heather Juergensen of Kissing Jessica Stein) and new friendship with his fellow Olympic boxing hopefuls: scrawny Victor Padilla (Jonathan Hernandez) and light heavyweight Robert Brown (Harold House Moore), a slow-burning sparring partner to Jerry and his rival for the Olympic spot.

Scott Adsit and Jane Lynch put in amusing cameos in smart scenes that play to favorite Carolla obsessions (driving too slow and carpentry approaches, respectively), but the film is also disappointingly willing to stoop to the lowbrow (Maxipad in the coffee maker, boy punching Adam in the crotch). Furthering the sense that the film is an all-in Ace-man fest, Adam Carolla Show regular Oswaldo Castillo plays Jerry's enthusiastic corner man, and Carolla gets to roll out favorite verbal bits, like his riff on the absurdity of the La Brea Tar Pits ("Any other city would have filled these up with kitty litter by now"). Unfortunately it all adds up to something more like a viral video than a full-fledged film.

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