Adam Carolla’s “Road Hard” isn’t a traditional romantic comedy. It still feels like a companion piece to his 2007 film “The Hammer,” which also featured a strong love connection.
Carolla faithful won’t line up, or order the film via Video on Demand, for moist-eyed glances. Is it funny? Well, yes. It takes a few scenes for “Road Hard” to warm up. Once it finds its satirical footing it’s sharp enough to merit the movie’s crowdsourcing roots.
Carolla, who co-wrote and co-directed the film, stars as a thinly-veiled version of his public persona. His Bruce Madsen once found fame as co-host of “The Bro Show.” Now, he’s having trouble finding a gig.
His comically wigged agent (Larry Miller) offers little help. Even his old “Bro” mate (Jay Mohr) can only throw him job scraps.
Bruce is smart but doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He’s a proud parent but he squabbles endlessly with his ex-wife (Illeana Douglas), He has a small support system of fellow comics, but they all harbor professional resentments that undercut his plans.
So when he meets a feisty divorcee (Diane Farr of MTV’s “Loveline”) he’s forced to reconsider his life as a touring comic.
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“Road Hard” recycles some jokes from Carolla’s parade of projects. Other moments offer original physical comedy with snap, including a hookup from hell that personifies what touring comics endure.
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While the script is mostly on-target, a few lines land awkwardly. Did Team Carolla research modern rom-coms too closely, and end up feeling sorry for Kate Hudson? David Alan Grier’s fiery appearances on Carolla’s podcast outperform his role here as part of Bruce’s inner circle. Perhaps an expanded character would have given Grier the comic rope he deserves.
Yet Howie Mandel crushes his small scene late in the film, catapulting “Road Hard” to its sentimental finale.
Farr’s role should have been richer, but she’s such a natural presence the problem never metastasizes. It’s easy to see why Bruce stops cold whenever she’s near.
“Road Hard” delivers a firm, but well deserved, slap at modern fame, YouTube stars are trotted out for our inspection. Talent can only take a performer so far. To thrive you have to play the game, and Bruce’s character isn’t sure that’s for him. The show business satire come across as genuine, not a film-stopping screed,
Carolla’s fan base will relish how much material he takes from his own life story. Those unfamiliar with his work, or distracted by his right-of-center musings, may be shocked by “Road Hard.” Who knew the man who introduced curvaceous women jumping on trampolines had such a soft spot for romance.
Note: For those following the Alison Rosen podcast saga, yes, the former sidekick does appear in a small but bright role.
DID YOU KNOW: Adam Carolla first met Jimmy Kimmel when he offered free boxing lessons to his future “Man Show” partner to help settle a radio station feud.