As I placed Adam Carolla's The Hammer into my DVD player, I was expecting a first round knockout. After all, the movie stars Carolla, a funny guy on "The Adam Carolla Show" and "The Man Show," but hardly a proven commodity in films. Furthermore, despite his popularity, the movie debuted on only 20 screens and went on to only make half a million dollars. Essentially, for most people in the country, The Hammer is a direct-to-DVD film, and that does not bode well.
But... what's this? The Hammer has a 7.4 rating on IMDB? And an equally significant 74% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Could The Hammer actually be good?
Amazingly, The Hammer is good. Good enough, in fact, that I'm shocked this movie didn't receive a much wider distribution. Made on what is clearly a very low budget, this movie could have been one of the most profitable flicks of the year. When it comes out on DVD this coming Tuesday, it is bound to become a cult classic. People have to know: The Hammer is a good movie.
To set expectations, the movie isn't amazing. It isn't a masterpiece, and it isn't the funniest movie you'll see this year. But it is a consistently entertaining, funny, enjoyable and even heartwarming picture.
Carolla stars as Jerry Ferro, a 40-year old construction worker who has never gone anywhere in his life. Once a respected small-time boxer, he now works crap jobs, hangs out with his Guatemalan friend Oswaldo Castillo and so on and so forth. However, he makes the decision to reenter the ring and start training at an amateur level. The young guys laugh... until he starts knocking them out. He may be slower and older, but he still packs a punch, and soon enough Jerry finds himself fighting for title in a regional amateur tournament. And he has a new girlfriend, a lawyer. And he finally has a purpose in life.
I didn't know what to expect from an Adam Carolla film, but I guess this is the result I should have seen coming. On his radio show, Carolla often references his poor childhood, and since the movie appears to be very roughly based on his life, at times the movie seems like an autobiography. As far as comedy goes, there are a lot of little gags, but not cheesy ones that you'd find in a film like Date Movie, but ones you can actually picture Carolla doing at some point in his life - or to Jimmy Kimmel. The dialogue clearly takes advantage of Carolla's humor, and at times even seems improvised; if you like Carolla, you'll find plenty to laugh about here.
Beyond the comedy, The Hammer is just an all-around feel-good movie. After all, it's about a guy who starts out as low as you can go and just keeps rising. It's an underdog sports movie, too, with some halfway decent boxing scenes. Amazingly, the most convincing part of the movie is the slow, bonding relationship between Carolla and his on-screen girlfriend Heather Juergensen. They have real chemistry and the simple caricature of their interactions seems a lot more real than those found in most romances.
The Hammer is a fun movie that succeeds in almost every way. Funny and entertaining, this one is the surprise of 2008.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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