One has to admire the gusto of Adam Carolla ever since his professional peak in the 1990s with both “Loveline” on radio stations across America and The Man Show on Comedy Central. Transitioning to a radio talk show host of note, Carolla would wind up becoming the biggest podcaster in the world after that ended. Becoming a renaissance artist, doing stand up routines and making documentaries alongside a burgeoning literary career, Carolla has flown the pirate flag and made a career on his terms.
It’s why Road Hard is an intriguing film on the surface. Crowd funded by Carolla, who wrote the film as well as directing and starring in it, this is a autobiographical piece about the sort of hard scrabble career he’s had since his heyday. Bruce Madsen (Carolla) had a hit many years ago on television and is now back onto the road, grinding out a standup comedy career based on his name value. Wanting back onto television, Madsen has to figure out his life in the midst of the success of his former television partner (Jay Mohr).
While one has to admire the gusto for which Carolla made the film, doing it his way (including a VOD release with a limited theatrical release nationwide), the one problem of not having anyone able to edit his film (or help it out during production) is that this feels like an outside voice would’ve helped it more than anything else. Why? Because Carolla is trying to craft this as both a film about an artist coming to grips with who he is as well as a romantic comedy and neither is constructed well enough to make for a full film.
It’s a huge problem because there is a great story waiting to come out of this film.
Carolla’s story is an interesting one in the modern entertainment industry because he’s done so much, and been so successful, without any of the usual pedigrees from an actor or entertainer. A former carpenter and laborer, Carolla has such an interesting story that it makes the film feel suspect because we can tell the story he wants to tell. It’s about an artist struggling with his current path, a successful one, against what he was. There’s something about this that Carolla is best suited to tell, having worked his way to a thriving career doing many things after opting to walk away from radio, but it’s also one that needed a bit more work.
Road Hard takes potentially two great stories, about an artist in the midst of challenging times as well as a traveling man who meets someone geographically undesirable, and tries to blend them into one. It doesn’t work because neither is as developed as they could be.
It’s a problem because Carolla is clearly game for the part. Carolla, using a stand in for his post Man Show experiences, is exactly the right actor to play the part of Madsen because he’s lived it. He’s been on the road and worked the hustle for everything he’s accomplished, giving us an authenticity to the part. The character rings true because it’s coming from someone who’s lived it both behind the camera and on it. A lot of it comes from Carolla’s stand up routines, and his podcast rants, but there’s world weariness to Carolla that few other actors could pull off. This is a part that requires someone to have spent time on the road as a stand up and Carolla has that in spades.
There’s an authenticity to that aspect of the film that a film based purely on Carolla on the road, without the romantic comedy aspect, that would’ve made for a far superior film. The artist commenting on his career, and on his past choices, is one Carolla is more than apt to make and it feels like the film should’ve focused on that instead. The romantic comedy aspect feels shoehorned in; there’s nothing to it that feels organic to the plot.
Road Hard manages to be entertaining but it feels like two separate movies smashed together to try and make one that’ll be universally appealing.
Writer/Director: Adam Carolla and Kevin Hench Notable Cast: Adam Carolla, Jay Mohr, Cynthy Wu, David Koechner, David Alan Grier, Philip Rosenthal, Larry Miller, Illeana Douglas, Diane Farr, Dana Gould, Howie Mandel.
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.