Review: Get Hard
PLOT: A white-collar businessman (Will Ferrell) is found guilty of fraud and sentenced to ten years in a super-max prison. Faced with the prospect of jail-house rape, he hires the only black person he knows a meek family man (Kevin Hart) who he thinks is an ex-con to teach him how to be tough in stir.
REVIEW: It's incomprehensible how a movie like GET HARD can be so unfunny despite being packed to the gills with comic talent. Will Ferrell rarely misses, and even his worst vehicles usually have at least some redeeming funny bits. Kevin Hart, while admittedly having a spottier track record, can similarly elevate lame material and at times even excel (his Real Husbands of Hollywood BET show is quite funny). Both flounder horribly here, with Hart being noticeably toned-down (despite the R-rating) and Ferrell struggling mightily with uncharacteristically mean-spirited humor which doesn't seem to come naturally to him. The result is an absolute mess of a movie that will likely disappoint even the duo's most fervent fans.
GET HARD actually plays out like a Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor vehicle, but not one of the funny ones like SILVER STREAK or STIR CRAZY. Rather, this is ANOTHER YOU-level bad, with the two having virtually zero comic chemistry. Each seems totally wrapped-up in his own shtick, and their styles of comedy clash badly. Hart is at his best playing a kind of everyman-style character, which is what he's doing here, as a family guy just trying to save enough money to move to a safer neighborhood so his daughter can attend a school without metal detectors. On the other hand, Ferrell as usual is playing a super broad caricature of an entitled one-percenter. Paired-up, these characters don't work as each is really just doing his own thing.
It's rare to see Ferrell in a hard-R movie but GET HARD squanders the comic possibilities of an unleashed Ferrell on a screenplay that's just a laundry list of lame cliches. The movie tries to make a point about racial stereotyping while indulging in those same stereotypes, and the gay panic angle feels like something out of a movie from twenty years ago. A scene where Ferrell attempts to perform fellatio on a gay-bar pickup is especially dumb, with the gay men at the bar acting like Dom DeLuise in BLAZING SADDLES. Now, don't mistake this for some kind of P.C rant. The fact is, GET HARD could have been offensive as hell, but if it was funny it wouldn't have mattered. Director Etan Cohen previously wrote TROPIC THUNDER. That one was funny enough to go there. GET HARD isn't anywhere near clever enough to cross-the-line, and a bit where Hart tries to get Ferrell to say the n-word was met with uncomfortable silence at the screening I attended.
What's interesting is that GET HARD actually fares better when the two leads are split up. Hart's domestic scenes with his wife (Edwina Findley) are actually quite charming. The same thing goes for Ferrell, who plays sensationally well off Alison Brie as his trophy-fiancee in the early scenes (too bad she's written out after the first act). Even better are his scenes opposite rapper T.I as a local gangsta who takes a liking to Ferrell and wants him to join his gang. They could have replaced Hart with the legitimately hard T.I and you would have had a movie that was still potentially offensive, but at least would have been funny.
Make no mistake, GET HARD is bad, but it's probably not quite as disastrous as some of the more outraged reviews out of SXSW are having you believe. It's definitely not at all successful, but it'll probably do OK at the box office due to goodwill towards the two leads, and then be quickly forgotten. It's doubtful that either Hart or Ferrell's fans are going to get much out of this, and it'll likely make their pairing a one-and-done kind of thing, which is certainly for the best. I shudder at the thought of a GET HARDER.
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