Movie review: ‘Get Hard’
Directed By Etan Cohen
Starring Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Alison Brie, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Craig T. Nelson, Edwina Findley, Ariana Neal, Erick Chavarria, Paul Ben-Victor, John Mayer
Rated R, Comedy, 100 minutes
Perhaps two good jokes shy of an unmitigated disaster, the comedy duet “Get Hard” barely works at being funny.
The film stars affable Will Ferrell as James and mildly edgier Kevin Hart (playing Darnell) as the proverbially odd couple, brought together by unlikely events. James is a multimillionaire stock trader whose nifty setup includes his impending marriage to the boss’ (Craig T. Nelson) daughter Alissa (Alison Brie). She comes equipped with a lingerie model’s body but displays values so shallow they make a curbside puddle seem deep.
Ferrell once again mines his large, doughy body for laughs, pressing his buttocks against a ground-floor window that abuts a dismayed gardener’s work area.
After being wrongly convicted for defrauding millions from investors, James is given 30 days to get his affairs in order before serving a 10-year sentence in San Quentin.
Too naive to suspect the obvious person of framing him, James turns to Darnell, the only black person he knows, for advice on surviving during his time behind bars.
Darnell owns a car wash based out of the garage where James parks, and, though he has never so much as been arrested, he plays along with James’ assumption that the black man must have served prison time. For Darnell’s efforts James pays the $30,000 needed by Darnell to make the down payment on a house in a better school district.
This setup calls for Darnell to attempt toughening James up via workouts that include the tall James using much shorter Darnell as a free weight. Next Darnell orders James to pick fights with various tough guys hanging out at the local park.
When it becomes evident James is a crybaby and a runner, Darnell takes James to an upscale gay bar where he orders James to proposition other men because Darnell declares that pleasuring other men is James’ one chance of making it out of prison alive.
While the toughening-up strategy leads to several silly bits, in the gay bar scenario James winds up on his knees on the floor of a bathroom stall, mouth agape and all teeth – as he repeatedly attempts to make himself do the deed. The scene is ugly, uncomfortable and painfully drawn out.
In perhaps the film’s best gag, Darnell instructs James to pretend he’s in the prison yard while Darnell portrays members of the various competing prison gangs, each threatening James for trespassing on their territory.
It isn’t a matter of being un-PC or of indulging in distasteful stereotypes, since comedy is a great vehicle for revealing the inherent flaws of our assumptions. Rather, the problem is that the film has difficulty depicting the ironic comedy exposing such flaws.
Rapper Tip “T. I.” Harris plays Russell, Darnell’s hardened criminal cousin, whom nicknames James “ Mayo” and agrees to let him earn gang membership, and therefore prison protection, in exchange for offing a gang enemy.
The film, which counts down the days remaining until James reports for prison, waits until the final few days before Darnell suggests they try to figure out who is responsible for getting James into this mess.
But, by then, the film has already revealed the truth – one viewers figured out before that reveal. By insisting that James remain a naive dolt, “Get Hard” commits its second crime – it hands out 100-minute sentences to its viewers.
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