Director(s): Adam Carolla and Kevin Hench
Writer(s): Kevin Hench and Adam Carolla
Cast: Adam Carolla, Jay Mohr, Howie Mandel, David Koechner, Diane Farr, Larry Miller, David Alan Grier, Philip Rosenthal and Illeana Douglas
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Apr 10, 2015 - Wide
In Adam Carolla’s crowdfunded semi-autobiographical comedy Road Hard, the popular podcaster plays Bruce Madsen, a former TV star who finds himself back on the road, back flying in coach, and hustling for a comeback. Along the way, he faces bad gigs arranged by a his eccentric agent (Larry Miller), a looming college education for his daughter (Cynthy Wu), and aggravation from his ex-wife (Illeana Douglas) and their expensive divorce.
The autobiographical elements are clearly there. Madsen once starred with Jack Taylor (Jay Mohr) in The Bro Show before Taylor went off to more success in late night. Carolla co-hosted The Man Show with Jimmy Kimmel. Kimmel, as you might have heard, has a little late night show called Jimmy Kimmel Live. Fans are constantly asking Madsen why Taylor can’t throw him a bone. Carolla, despite being one of podcasting’s kings, gets the same sort of questions about his good friend Kimmel. Carolla was on Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice. The fictional Madsen’s career includes a stint on Celebrity Barn-Raising.
Fans of Carolla’s podcasts will recognize many of Adam’s rants making their way into Bruce Madsen’s life and act. Unreasonable hotel charges, carry-on baggage storage, clueless TV network execs and questionable service dogs are all in Madsen’s life, a life that sees him fly from one small-town comedy club to another. Along the way, he has to deal with unscrupulous club owners, talentless morning radio hosts and contractually-obligated fan meet-and-greets. The people that Madsen meets keep unnecessarily reminding him that his star used to shine brighter. One of the women (Diane Farr) that he meets on the road changes his life and Madsen is willing to try anything to get himself off the road.
Carolla may not necessarily be the most emotive actor out there but his laid back performance is perfect for a man weary of the daily grind of the road but too tired to work too hard to get out of his predicament.
Carolla’s supported with plenty of energy by a group of his talented friends, many of whom are regulars on the podcast. Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal and David Alan Grier play a couple of breakfast companions who keep Bruce aware of successes in the TV field that he’s missing out on. The always entertaining David Koechner plays an online dreamcatcher and custom jewellery seller who lives with Madsen’s ex-wife in the house Madsen paid for, while Madsen lives in the garage. Miller is wonderfully quirky as Madsen’s wig-wearing agent.
Two women in Madsen’s life, his daughter (Cynthy Wu) and a potential love interest (Diane Farr), give Carolla the chance to take his performance away from hotel and masturbation jokes. Carolla and Wu’s father and daughter scenes have a real tenderness about them and Farr’s character gives Carolla someone to play off who isn’t about to spin out of orbit. She really grounds him.
The film’s budget was crowdfunded on fundanything.com and though the $1.45 million raised would be the food budget on some flicks, the direction by Carolla and his co-writer, Kevin Hench, as well as the work by the crew, don’t make this look like some low-budget toss-off.
Yes, Road Hard’s a small film, with a simple storyline and no avenging superheroes. Though I might quibble with the way the story quickly got sewn up in a traditional Hollywood rom-com manner, I found its performances charming and Madsen’s quest for a life different than the one he’s living a quest many will recognize in themselves.