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REVIEW

'Rocky' meets 'Honeymooners'

The low-key 'The Hammer' doesn't have a knockout punch but pleases nonetheless.

March 21, 2008|Gene Seymour | Newsday

At times, it's hard to tell whether "The Hammer" is goofing on the formulaic uplift-through-sports movie or wants very much to be considered a classic of the genre. But then, any movie whose hero starts his day by having to use his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend's maxi pad as a coffee filter probably doesn't care where it fits in global cinematic terms.

The yo-yo in question is one Jerry Ferro, played by Adam Carolla, KLSX-FM morning host, late of "The Man Show" and one of this year's aspirants on "Dancing With the Stars." Jerry, as with Carolla in real life, was an amateur boxer with a lethal left hook who stumbled away from potential glory to wander from job site to job site as a freelance carpenter. Jerry's 40th birthday proves an all-too-typical collision of mishaps. He's fired from his job, the aforementioned girlfriend moves out (the coffee thing was the least of it), and he gets pounded in a sparring match at his neighborhood gym with a promising pro contender. Yet Jerry, though bruised, flattens the guy with that heavy-duty left, prompting boxing coach Eddie Bell (Tom Quinn) to suggest he try out for the Olympic boxing team.

What you have here, essentially, is a classic "Honeymooners" episode juiced with tropes from the most recent "Rocky" movie. The danger of mixing slob humor with aging-jock reclamation is further enhanced by a romantic angle featuring a sexy lawyer (Heather Juergensen) who's there to cheer Jerry on and, of course, laugh at all his jokes.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. We laugh at much of "The Hammer's" jokes even when they're predictable, crude or predictably crude. Director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, who directed his real-life wife, Juergensen, as a different kind of romantic interest in 2001's "Kissing Jessica Stein," maintains an agreeably low-key tone, even in the inevitable climactic fight. It's no classic, but unlike recent attempts at sports comedy (we're looking at you, "Semi-Pro"), "The Hammer" comes through by not seeming to try too hard.

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"The Hammer." MPAA rating: R for brief language. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. In limited release.

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