Sadly, it’s more of the latter. A film starring Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart should have been a non-stop laugh riot, but what we get with Get Hard is a film that definitely has hilarious moments, but also a lot of jokes that fall flat.
The film focuses on James King (Ferrell), a day trader who is framed for embezzlement and sentenced to ten years in San Quentin with thirty days to get his affairs in order. Being a generally oblivious rich asshole, James turns to the only black man he knows, Darnell (Hart), to teach him how to survive in prison. The only problem is, Darnell has never been to prison and is as straight-laced as they come, running his small car wash business. However, when James offers the money Darnell needs to move his family out of their dangerous neighborhood, he’s more than happy to play into whatever stereotypes and misconceptions James has about him.
Hilarity, mostly, ensues as Darnell prepares James for every stock danger he’ll face while in the joint—rape, stabbings, rape, abusive guards, rape, etc. You’ll notice I mentioned rape quite a bit. This is due to the fact that the movie constantly harps on it. There’s been a lot of talk by critics about the film being homophobic, but I didn’t see it that way. People don’t want to be raped, especially in prison, and the film never denigrates homosexuals, it just goes on ad nauseam about how James really doesn’t want to have gay sex. The saddest part is, a lot of this material doesn’t work and when the film spends so much time on it, it feels like a wasted opportunity and drags the film down.
The funniest moments come from other jailhouse preparations and when James and Darnell finally attempt to uncover who framed James. The premise had a lot of potential to be funny, but it takes the easy road more often than not, stranding its two leads in unfunny scenes. The film has also been accused of being racist, but the joke is always on James as he tries to appropriate gang and hip hop culture throughout. By the end of the film, his transformation is pretty hilarious.
Ferrell and Hart have good chemistry and I’d like to see them in something else in the future. However, in this film, the script handcuffs them to bits that don’t work. There are a lot of really funny moments, but there are also a lot of dead spots. It’s a shame when this could have been a classic. Also, Ferrell’s character was unbelievably naive for a man who makes millions of dollars as a financial shark. I think the filmmakers made that choice so he would just be innocently insensitive on matters of race as opposed to willfully racist. T.I. puts in a nice appearance as Darnell’s ex-con cousin, while Craig T. Nelson looks like he’s sleepwalking through the film as James’ soon-to-be father in law. Alison Brie is pretty much wasted as his fiancée, though she and Ferrell have at least one pretty funny scene together.
Overall, you’ll laugh at Get Hard—it’s a silly film—but the talent of everyone involved promised a much better movie. Catch it on cable, but it’s not necessary to see it in the theaters.