Adam Carolla plays curmudgeon comic Bruce Madsen in Road Hard, a semi-autobiographical sophomore effort co-directed and co-written by Carolla and frequent collaborator Kevin Hench.
Maden feels like he’s in the shadow of everyone more successful than him. This film would probably feel the same way about its presence next to Judd Apatow’s Funny People. That said, I know a lot of people who quiver just thinking about Apatow’s expansive ode to comedians. If you were to pitch Road Hard to those naysayers as a sort of “do-over”, I think they would approve.
Carolla doesn’t have to reach too far out of his own element to play a cranky comedian. As a fan of Adam ‘The Aceman’ Carolla’s career and current podcast, I went into Road Hard knowing the comedian loves to rant. Dense airlines, foolish hotel policies, and overbearing fans are common complaints.
Carolla and Hench use Road Hard as an opportunity to flesh out those bitter tirades. We see Bruce argue with a hotel receptionist about cleaning charges, we see his temples swell up when a woman and her dog plop next to him on a busy airplane, and he’s fed up every time an eager fan recognizes him from a television show that was a hit in the 90’s. I imagine Adam Carolla found Road Hard to be a cathartic experience. It’s one thing to complain over a microphone, but to act out similar situations takes his protesting to a whole new level.
Avid followers of Carolla will get a kick out of seeing Adam..er…Bruce in cringe-worthy confrontations, but a hefty amount of Road Hard gets too distracted with these showdowns. The story pauses, Bruce questions why something is stupid, the defendant naively explains, and then Bruce bickers while everyone else in the scene waits patiently for Adam…um….Bruce to wear himself out.
A few of these scenes are funny, but then they start to weigh the movie down as the audience sighs and waits for the movie to carry on. This is where Hench should’ve provided some discipline while his partner huffed and puffed in front of the camera.
Also, how much of this is true? I know the nitpicking is truthful and the representation of a comedian’s tired life on the road is honest, but does Adam hold this much resentment towards his friend and former Man Show co-host Jimmy Kimmel? Jay Mohr plays Jack Taylor, a talk show host that fits the bill for a Kimmel-like character, and Bruce is almost always frustrated with Jack’s success. Trying to figure out the line between truth and fiction is an uncomfortable task for the viewer.
Road Hard made me laugh nonetheless, and I found myself enjoying the film. The filmmakers have asked favours from famous friends to pull off quickie roles in their movie, and the performances make a difference. David Alan Grier and Phil Rosenthal are amusing as Bruce’s buddies who love their friendship with Bruce, but keep other business matters reserved. Howie Mandel tells a filthily funny Deal or No Deal story with his energizing cameo, and Larry Miller (along with a collection of outrageous wigs) is a hoot as Bruce’s agent, Babydoll.
The material in various comedy clubs hit the right marks, and Road Hard doesn’t sell out for sentimentality when the screenplay goes for more tender moments with a blossoming romance between Bruce and a cagey cute acquaintance (played by Diane Farr). Carolla and Hench are able to drift away from crass punchlines, and focus on the sweet lining holding the last act together.
Road Hard, a film that was impressively crowdfunded through a highly successful FundAnything campaign, is a decent comedy. Nothing more, nothing less.