Judge Dan Mancini's boxing nickname was "The Punching Bag."
You're never too old to go for the gold.
Jerry Ferro (Adam Carolla, The Man Show) is a loser. In one day, the forty year old carpenter and washed-up amateur boxer is fired from his job and dumped by his girlfriend. As he and his Nicaraguan buddy Ozzie (Oswaldo Castillo, The Adam Carolla Project) ponder their next move, fate intervenes when Jerry's powerhouse left hook (which earned him the nickname "The Hammer" back in the day) is noticed by a coach training a young fighter for the Olympic trials. Jerry is invited to take a shot at the Nationals, which could lead to a spot on the Olympic team. Meanwhile, he meets and begins to pursue Lindsay Pratt (Heather Juergensen, Kissing Jessica Stein), an attractive public defender who attends the boxing classes he teaches at the gym.
Considering the foundation of its script is a collection of the most tired sports movie and romantic comedy clichés imaginable, The Hammer should be a terrible movie. It manages to transcend its own limitations—to a certain extent, anyway—on the strength of Adam Carolla's dry wit, the improvisational style of many of the scenes, and an unusual level of authenticity resulting from Carolla's real-life connection to the material (he was an amateur boxer, boxing instructor, and carpenter before moving into show business). Comedy highlights include Jerry and Lindsay's riff-inducing first date at the La Brea Tar Pits, and a hilarious carpentry-related argument in a hardware store check-out line between Jerry and Jane Lynch (Best in Show) as one-half of a lesbian couple buying supplies to build a storage shed (Ozzie's siding with the lesbians is the perfect capper to perhaps the greatest comedy sequence ever constructed entirely of building contractor jargon). In addition to these structured comedy set pieces (and a few others), the movie is fueled by a steady stream of consistently funny asides from Carolla, all delivered with a surplus of Average Joe charm.
As previously noted, the sports plotline is limp and predictable. That said, Carolla's real-life experience as a promising high school football player and Golden Gloves boxer give the requisite training sequences, and even the fights themselves to a certain extent, a surprisingly realistic texture. When Carolla works out with a heavy bag, he looks like an athlete who's spent countless hours working with heavy bags, not an actor who took a crash course at a local gym. And I think it's safe to say that no other well-heeled denizen of the Hollywood hills can match Carolla's jump rope skills. None of this changes the fact that The Hammer is an unnecessary trip back to the sports Cinderella story well, but it does make the journey more bearable.
With the exception of heavy use of the jump cut in some spots in order to string together rapid-fire salvoes of Carolla one-liners, director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld (Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde) shoots The Hammer with a minimum of stylistic fuss. The transfer on the DVD is similarly no frills. Framed at 1.78:1 and enhanced for widescreen displays, the image sports decent detail and colors that are slightly muted, though still natural. There's not a lot to complain about, but the picture won't wow you either. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is similarly mediocre.
For a low-key DVD release of a low-budget movie, The Hammer packs a better-than-average slate of supplements. An audio commentary by Carolla and screenwriter Kevin Hench (Jimmy Kimmel Live!) makes for a highly entertaining second viewing of the movie as the banter between the duo is funny and informative. A lengthy video conversation between Carolla and longtime friend and co-star Oswaldo Castillo is also a lot of fun. The two discuss their 20-year friendship, Castillo's job history, and his adventures "sneaking" through Mexico and into America in the mid-1980s. Deleted scenes, outtakes, a raw recording of Castillo's ADR session, a still gallery, and a trailer are also included on the disc.
The Hammer isn't a great movie, but it's better than I thought it would be. Its humor is consistently sharp and, in some spots, laugh-out-loud funny. If you're a fan of Carolla, it's worth a rental.
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