Rating: 2.5 out of 10
Will Ferrell as James King
Directed by Etan Cohen
After being prosecuted for fraud and embezzlement, wealthy stockbroker James King (Will Ferrell) is sentenced to ten years at San Quentin, giving him just thirty days to get his business in order. When he learns of the horrors he can expect in prison, he turns to Darnell (Kevin Hart), who runs his local car wash, to help teach him how to survive in jail, under the misapprehension that Darnell has been in jail himself.
In a year where the attempt to find an even remotely funny comedy has reached desperate levels, we instead get another high concept comedy in which a white guy hires Kevin Hart to save his ass, though in this case it’s quite literal.
It takes nearly twenty minutes to get to the flimsy premise described above, as the movie’s intro bounces between two very different men to contract their lives: Will Ferrell’s stockbroker James King and Hart’s Darnell, who manages a car wash and has money issues. Ferrell’s character is fairly deplorable and his money-grubbing trophy fiancée Alissa (Alison Brie) is even worse, clearly just loving him for his money, which she spends frivolously. It isn’t the most groundbreaking set-up and the fact that the two men have nothing in common gives some hope that bringing them together will make it worth it.
The main joke is supposed to be that Kevin Hart’s Darnell is not a tough black man who spent time in prison, but rather a polo shirt-wearing family man with a young daughter he wants to get out of the tough South Central school she attends. In fact, Darnell’s wife is tougher than him, but King is one of those closeted rich racists who quickly show their true colors when given the chance—think Donald Sterling or Paula Dean—so he assumes Darnell has been in jail merely from the color of his skin.
Note to filmmakers: When you base the very premise of your comedy on very real racism that exists in this country, the only place you can go is down… and that’s exactly where Get Hard goes.
Listen, many of us have seen “Oz” or other prison movies and know what sort of things happen in jail to the weak and easily preyed upon, but Get Hard goes way overboard in trying to drive the point home that King will most likely get raped as soon as he gets into prison. And that’s pretty much the single running joke that drives the entire plot. Ferrell and Hart are both great comedy improvisers, but instead of tapping into that fountain of humor, we get a constant stream of jokes about rape and sexual harassment in jail, which isn’t even remotely funny. But then that sums up Get Hard in a nutshell: “Not funny.”
In one scene, Hart portrays some of the potential denizens of a typical jail yard, including a Latino and a gay inmate, proving that you don’t have to be white to be racist. In another scene, he brings King to a café where he might easily find a gay man who will allow him to practice oral sex, since nothing else seems to be working. That leads to an awkward encounter in a bathroom stall between Ferrell, Matt Walsh and a prosthetic penis that causes more squirms than laughs.
If that isn’t uncomfortable enough, Darnell then brings King to a tough black neighborhood to get in with his cousin’s gang, the Crenshaw Kings, in hopes they’ll protect him in jail, and when that doesn’t work, they turn to a white supremacist motorcycle gang. Basically, they’re constantly reaching to the lowest point of the barrel trying to find laughs.
Ferrell has gone a long way to get out of his contest with Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey to being the most annoying comedian making movies, but this one takes him back to some of his worst roles where he’s just allowed to run rampant with no boundaries given to him by first-time director Etan Cohen. His attempt to act threatening by making faces in an attempt to “mad dog” anyone that comes after him is a joke that quickly runs thin and you do not want to even know what “kiestering” is, but it’s as bad as it sounds. The only scenes that work even remotely are the ones where Ferrell is trying to bond with the Crenshaw gang, but it’s as ridiculous and stupid as everything else.
Eventually, they figure out that since James claims to be innocent, they should find who actually has been embezzling the money, as it moves into a plot that makes more sense, but by then, we’ve already been subjected to so much racist and homophobic humor that it’s hard to allow any sort of redemption for King. Despite his time spent with Darnell, King’s transformation is neither believable nor earned.
I’m fairly surprised this was produced by Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Gary Sanchez Productions, because they generally have a better track record with the likes of Anchorman and Step Brothers. Also, one might think that a company that would get rid of the gunshots in their logo to be more sensitive to shooting victims would be more aware of how offensive this movie is likely to be. I’m all for breaking taboos and not being overly-PC when it comes to comedy, but there is a line and Get Hard crossed it as soon as someone read the script and greenlit it.
The Bottom Line:
Get Hard may not have any redeeming qualities whatsoever, but at least we finally get a comedy that homophobes, racists and generally stupid people can all enjoy together!