RATING |

There's a particularly telling scene midway through Adam Carolla's new feature, Road Hard. The movie is a droll, if not entirely successful, semiautobiographical comedy starring Carolla as a former TV star so desperate to breathe life back into his career that he goes on the road as a stand-up comic.

The entire venture is a humiliation for Carolla's character, Bruce Madsen. He's doing the kind of work you do to pay your dues as a young man, not when you're hitting 50, a fact his audience knows full well.

In the scene, Madsen gently bangs his head against a wall backstage at a third-rate club as he listens to the emcee announce his act.

"He was a nationally syndicated radio host," says the announcer. "He was a New York Times best-selling author. You may remember him from Hey Dude, Where's My Beer? . . . He was named by Rolling Stone as a top 100 comedian of 1999."

The operative word here of course is was. To be fair, Bruce also starred in Hey Dude, Where's My Beer? 4 (but not 2 or 3, it seems) and was a runner-up on Celebrity Barn-Raising, a credit the emcee is kind enough also to mention.

Bruce is a has-been. He hit the big time for a while on The Bro Show. (An obvious reference to The Man Show, which was created and originally co-hosted by Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel.)

He had the life: a grand house in L.A., which he shared with his beautiful wife, Jessica (Illeana Douglas), and their adopted daughter, Tina (Cynthy Wu).

Now divorced, he lives in the garage. His wife shares his house with her jeweler boyfriend, Chad (David Koechner). For his part, his Bro Show costar, Jack (Jay Mohr), who once looked up to Bruce, now has his own late-night talk show.

Carolla, who co-wrote and co-directed the picture with Kevin Henchis, has a way of making his remarkably stiff screen presence endearing. He plays Bruce with gentle self-mockery and a touch of genuine pathos. The stand-up material is vintage Carolla: crude, self-flagellating jokes about loneliness filled with references to masturbation.

Road Hard, partly funded through crowd-sourcing, is an enjoyable picture. It's sure to appeal to Man Show fans, though it withers when compared to another recent film about a has-been comic directed by its star, Chris Rock's remarkable Top Five.

Road Hard **1/2 (out of four stars)

Co-directed by Adam Carolla and Kevin Hench. With Carolla, Jay Mohr, David Alan Grier, Howie Mandell, Illeana Douglas, Diane Farr. Distributed by FilmBuff.

Running time: 1 hour, 37 mins.

Parent's guide: Not rated (profanity, nudity, sexual situations, smoking)

Playing at: PFS at the Roxy Theater.EndText

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