Directed by Etan Cohen. Produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Written by Jay Martel, Ian Roberts, and Etan Cohen. Release date: March 27, 2015.
Filled with prison rape jokes, stupid faces, and erection euphemisms, Get Hard is pretty much what you’d expect it is if you’ve seen the trailer or can picture Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart talking about how one needs to, well, get the other “hard.” In this case, “hard” is standing in for the word “tough,” because euphemisms are funny, I guess.
Ferrell’s character is James King, an investment banker who has everything in life. A great job, more money than he knows what to do with, a wonderful fiancé (Alison Brie; yes, Lord Business and Unikitty are engaged to be married, and no, this isn’t a filthy fanfiction), and a great boss (Craig T. Nelson). But his world’s about to come crashing down when he gets arrested, charged, and sentenced to ten years in prison for fraud and embezzlement. He’s given 30 days to get his affairs in order, and during that time enlists the help of the man who washes his car, Darnell (Hart), to train him for prison. Darnell, he assumes, is someone who went to prison. Why? Because, he tells us, one out of every three black people goes to prison at some point. That tells you more or less what type of person we’re dealing with.
As such, it’s initially kind of hard to root for James. He pleads his innocence – and the film makes no bones about who the real villain is – but James starts out such an unlikable person and really never redeems himself for that. Darnell, meanwhile, just wants to make enough money to get his family into a nice neighborhood. If the film has a “good” character, it’s him. It’s too bad James didn’t pick up some of those nicer attributes. The only growth that James undertakes involves, as the title indicates, getting “hard.”
I’d wager approximately two-thirds of Get Hard‘s screen time is taken up with only tangentially related “training” sketches which have James having to deal with situations that are supposed to simulate prison. His funds are frozen, we’re told, yet he still manages to scrape together the capital in order to transform his mansion into a regular old San Quentin. We do prison riots, we make shivs, we make up profane and creative insults, we fight, we do stupid “mad dog” faces, and we see a whole host of other things, all done to avoid what James fears most: being raped while in prison.
If two-thirds of the 100-minute running time are dedicated to these various sketches, another 15 minutes are dedicated to making sure we, as an audience, understand exactly how much James does not want to be raped in prison. It gets uncomfortable just how much it’s touched upon, and while the film wouldn’t work at all if it wasn’t mentioned, there’s a line when something stops becoming funny because it’s brought up too often, and Get Hard crosses that line.
Math was never my strong suit, but 66 + 15 looks like 81 to me. That leaves 19 minutes unaccounted for. Take out the credits, and we have maybe 13 minutes left. For what purpose does Get Hard use them? An abbreviated and frankly quite terrible action-buddy sequence in which James and Darnell try to bring down the real bad guy. It has the only real action scene of the movie, and is supposed to serve as this big climax but doesn’t really amount to a whole lot. The action isn’t good and the payoff is lame.
Prison rape jokes and erection euphemisms aren’t the comedic heights we should be striving to attain.
Most of the problem with that comes from really not caring one way or another if James goes to prison. Sure, maybe he didn’t steal millions of dollars, but he’s still a jerk and doesn’t learn over the course of the movie why being a jerk is bad. There’s no pathos being evoked here. Will James take down the bad guy or will the bad guy get away with it? Who cares!
Get Hard functions as the directorial debut of one Etan Cohen, who has worked on satirical movies like Idiocracy and Tropic Thunder. Get Hard never approaches those heights, although not all of it is a failure. There are some laughs reaped from race relations and cultural appropriation, which could have easily been unfunny and very offensive. In fact, when the film decides to get away from “lolprisonrape” and starts to joke about other things, it actually starts to get decent. It’s just too bad that it can’t go more than a minute or two before going back down that road.
Will Ferrell has never really been my cup of tea. His best comedic work, as far as I’m concerned, is still probably Elf, and that’s pretty sad. He’s fine here, and if you usually like him this isn’t the movie that will change that. Kevin Hart, who at this point is beginning to risk overexposure – if he’s not already there – is also decent, although when it comes to 2015 releases, The Wedding Ringer was a better film and a funnier role for him. Ferrell and Hart have a good chemistry, actually, and with a better screenplay could potentially make a great comedy together. Alison Brie has a role so minuscule that I’m honestly not sure if her character gets a name. Craig T. Nelson gets to do nothing of interest, and T.I. actually gets a decent number of laughs as a gang leader.
Get Hard isn’t a good movie, and it serves as another reminder of how rare good wide-release comedies are. It’s far too focused on certain aspects that just don’t remain funny when mined as often as they are here. Whether you ultimately like it or not will largely depend on how big of a fan you are of Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, both of whom are fine, but you should really expect more out of them. Prison rape jokes and erection euphemisms aren’t the comedic heights we should be striving to attain.
Bottom Line: Consisting of nothing more than barely related sketches, prison rape jokes, erection euphemisms, and a poor action-buddy sequence, Get Hard doesn’t use its premise or stars as well as it should.
Recommendation: Outside of being a massive Will Ferrell or Kevin Hart fan, there’s no reason to see Get Hard.[rating=2]