Arts & Culture

Movie review: ‘Road Hard’

Adam Carolla in ‘Road Hard’
Adam Carolla in ‘Road Hard’ Film Buff

Adam Corolla co-wrote, co-directed and stars in Road Hard, an interesting slice-of-life about a mid-career, middle-aged comedian going back on the road. Though it’s a narrative feature, the movie has some of the appeal of a documentary, the sense of seeing something from the inside.

Being a traveling comedian isn’t a glamorous life. It’s nothing like being in a band, where there are other people to hang out with, and where there might even be attractive groupies waiting at the stage door. As presented in Road Hard, road life for standup looks lonely, going from town to town and getting stuck in the middle seat while flying coach.

It’s especially bad for Bruce (Corolla), because he knows what it’s like to have it good. In the 1990s, he had a TV show, and he appeared in a few movies and made tons of money. Now the money is gone, and he has to hustle – and also endure the embarrassment of knowing that his erstwhile TV co-star (Jay Mohr) has gone on to fame and riches as the new “king of late night.”

Looked at as a conventional movie, Road Hard has a lot of seams showing. Corolla isn’t really an actor. He has a declamatory way of speaking dialogue that sounds a lot like someone talking from a stage. The dialogue itself is often awkward, either serving an obvious plot function or there to segue into comic bits. Still, the movie has its own integrity. It’s about something, a particular world, and Corolla knows what he’s talking about.

There are some intriguing ideas here, the notion that comedy is not just about being funny, that Bruce’s problem is that he didn’t keep up with the times, that he didn’t do the necessary work. Watching Bruce’s standup routines while knowing what he’s doing to get from one city to another brings a different perspective. What might simply have seemed funny feels a little pathetic. Is this what it’s all about? Struggling and striving to communicate a series of banal observations and lewd sexual comments? It doesn’t seem like much of a life.

Though Corolla and co-filmmaker Kevin Hench devise some funny situations – particularly, the one in which a newly-divorced woman insists on coming back to his room – the overall feeling that comes across is one of sadness, and that seems intentional.

Road Hard caves in somewhat (not completely) when the filmmakers lose their honesty in pursuit of an ending. Having derided the road and mocked the values of television success, Corolla and Hench can’t have Bruce’s career story end either in conventional success or failure, because neither would feel like a happy ending. So they come up with something else that doesn’t seem quite real.

A handful of comedians show up in cameo roles, most notably Howie Mandel, playing himself. It’s a strange appearance. Mandel is presented as a sadistic showbiz monster, a phony awful creep, and what’s weirder still, the scene isn’t played for laughs. Either Mandel was persuaded to do a hatchet job on himself, figuring no one would believe he’s really like that, or, even worse, he thinks he comes off well.

Exclusive: Look Cinemas, Dallas

Road Hard

Director: Adam Corolla and Kevin Hench

Cast: Adam Corolla, Howie Mandel, Jay Mohr

Rated: Unrated (adult themes)

Running time: 92 min.