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Originally published Friday, March 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

That Carolla guy nails the comedy thing, anyway

Confession: I'd never heard of Adam Carolla until this week, when he popped up on both "Dancing with the Stars" and in this likable sports...

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars

"The Hammer," with Adam Carolla, Oswaldo Castillo, Heather Juergensen, Tom Quinn, Harold "House" Moore. Directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, from a screenplay by Kevin Hench. 90 minutes. Rated R for brief language. Uptown, Mountlake 9.

Confession: I'd never heard of Adam Carolla until this week, when he popped up on both "Dancing with the Stars" and in this likable sports comedy. (Hey, when you're out at the movies all the time, "The Man Show" isn't exactly a priority.) But, as I may be the last person in America to observe, the guy's wry, droning delivery is pretty funny. "The Hammer" deserves to last in theaters far longer than Carolla's agreeably galumphing "Dancing" stint likely will.

The film reunites several members of the "Kissing Jessica Stein" production team (director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, producer Eden Wurmfeld, co-star Heather Juergensen) for a very different kind of movie. "The Hammer" feels a lot like Ron Shelton's sports comedies of the '90s ("Tin Cup," "White Men Can't Jump"): It's loose, a little silly and ultimately irresistible. Carolla, in a role inspired by his own life, plays Jerry Ferro, a 40-year-old carpenter whose life is in a rut. A former boxer who still teaches classes at his gym (and, on the side, dishes out advice on the best bolts to use when hanging punching bags), Jerry decides to finally follow his dreams. He starts training for the Olympics — never mind that the odds for 40-year-old carpenters aren't great — and along the way finds a cute, tentative romance with a pretty lawyer (Juergensen). A happy ending? You bet.

Working with utterly predictable material, screenwriter Kevin Hench finds plenty of offbeat humor, and Carolla knows how to make it sing. Told his new girlfriend Lindsey may move to rainy Seattle for a job, Jerry deadpans: "You'd essentially be moving into an aquarium. Do you really want to live in a castle with bubbles coming out of it?" He's the kind of guy who, in search of a wildly romantic gesture, builds Lindsey a deck while she's out of town (be still, my beating heart) and spells out "Don't Go" on it with candles. Like Kevin Costner in "Tin Cup," he's an endearingly goofy underdog.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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