I have expressed my less than favorable view of Kevin Hart in the past. His screaming in place of jokes schtick is grating, and I honestly do not understand the appeal. However, in Get Hard, he is paired up with Will Ferrell and ostensibly takes up the straight man role to Ferrell’s more wacky counterpart. The results are surprisingly effective, as the two strike up a great chemistry with one another and create a lot of laughs. The film has a horrible homophobic touch to it, along with almost every woman character (and by almost, I mean two of the three in the movie) are treated as merely sex objects, but the stuff around that, like showcasing the worst tendencies of racial stereotyping, had me laughing rather consistently.
James King (Ferrell) is an extremely successful hedge fund manager. He was just made partner at his company by his boss (Craig T. Nelson) and is engaged to the boss’s gold digging daughter, played by Alison Brie who is totally wasted here (more on that later). While playing guitar with John Mayer at a party, celebrating his promotion, James is arrested for over 40 counts of fraud and ends up sentenced to a decade in San Quentin.
This all leads to James turning to Darnell (Hart), the owner of the Hollywood Luxury Bubbles car wash, in order to help him prepare for prison, which King assumes he went to because he is black. However, Darnell is just a normal guy with a family and is in a bit of a financial crisis at home. So, he takes up this ruse to help King in exchange for the $30,000 he needs.
The movie is not shy about its exploitation of racial stereotyping. It’s caustic and vulgar about it, which some will construe as offensive but is actually a funny way of pointing out just how ignorant it all is. Just because you have a character in your movie with certain racist thoughts doesn’t mean the movie is racist. And when the absolute worst people in your movie are the real, true racists, it’s fair to assume the people making this do not align themselves with those beliefs. Truth is, everyone has a prejudice about everyone. Some are more extreme than others, but they are there. Get Hard is just pointing out everyone has an ignorant thing about them, and it is quite funny in how it does it.
The same cannot be said for gay prejudices. Get Hard does treat performing oral sex on a man as probably the most disgusting thing a person can do, and every scene involving it is uncomfortable. None more so than when James and Darnell go to a popular gay hangout spot, and King tries to do it with the great (and misused) Matt Walsh, in order to prepare for prison sex. That is crosscut with a gay man coming on creepily strong on Darnell. Everything about the sequence is uncomfortable and didn’t feel at all satirical in the way the racial jokes were.
Then there is the portrayal of women. Alison Brie is a terrific actor (go watch “Community” or The Five-Year Engagement to see that) but in this movie she’s reduced to a gross, money-obsessed sex object, shoving her cleavage in people’s eyesight in place of getting jokes. She even sort of does the baby-talk sexiness schtick to get what she wants, something they made fun of on “Community” for being horrible. She is meant to be looked at as hot in this movie and nothing more. Then Shonda (Dominique Perry), who Ferrell’s character falls for later, only shakes her ass in his face for his enjoyment. Darnell’s wife (Edwina Findley) is the only one given any kind of dignity, but she’s in the movie far too little to make any kind of impact.
Despite my vehement distaste for these two things, they take up only about 15% of the running time. The rest of which I found pretty funny. It’s not the most memorable or cutting edge comedy, but I laughed quite a bit. The jokes are not staying with me particularly well, and I am only a day removed from seeing it as I’m writing this review. So, my opinion of it as time goes on could certainly shift, but that does not change the fact I found it funny in the moment.
If anything, Get Hard was really the first time I saw some really good stuff with Kevin Hart. He doesn’t scream a lot, and when he does, he actually has a reason to do so rather than trying to be funny. He works as the straight man because he’s a personality rather than a character comic, which is what Ferrell is. That is why the two are able to work very well together. Again, this is not a terribly inventive buddy comedy and is not for the easily offended, but the two do work well together, certainly making me laugh.