March 27, 2015 Leave a comment
Wrongly convicted of tax evasion, scapegoated partner James King (Will Ferrell) loses his job, his fiance and his liberty. Scared of what might await him in prison, James seeks guidance from Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart), the manager of his old building’s car valet business who is assumed to have served jail time of his own, on account of his skin colour. Desperate for money in order to send his daughter to a better school, Darnell overlooks James’ racial prejudices and agrees to help — despite being a decidedly law abiding citizen with a criminal record as clean as the cars that leave his car-wash. Worried that Darnell might actually be working to clear his ex-employee’s name, Martin Barrow (Craig T Nelson) assigns Gayle (Paul Ben-Victor) to keep an eye on them.
Make no mistake, Will Ferrell is a very funny man. Be it live-action or animation, the actor has made a name for himself as a gifted comedian with films such as Elf, Anchorman, Megamind and The LEGO Movie. He is also wildly inconsistent, and though they are not without their fans films such as Semi-Pro, The Campaign and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues have stretched the jokes that little bit too far. Get Hard undoubtedly falls into that latter camp, and — with the exception of Step Brothers — may even be his least entertaining movie to date. After all, it pairs him with Kevin Hart, who with the likes of Ride Along and About Last Night has proven himself to be not very funny at all.
The problems are manifold, but surely the most pertinent is the fact that there isn’t a single laugh to be had in Get Hard‘s interminable 100-minute running-time. Having already used his only real joke in the film’s title, (co)writer-director Etan Cohen then proceeds to labour the point: that getting ready for prison is somehow synonymous with giving another man — in this case your cellmate — an erection. A large part of Darnell’s syllabus, practically an entire semester of it, focuses on how to excel as another man’s bitch, assuming and later accepting that James will most likely fail to turn the tables on his first day inside. So, basically, the film’s central gag is that one of its two main characters is going to get raped, and its focus is on him getting ready for it.
Faced with accusations that their film is not only homophobic but racist and a little bit misogynist too — celebrated comedienne Alison Brie appears just long enough to strip for the camera — the cast and crew have claimed that Get Hard is actually a satire, spotlighting prejudices rather than sanctioning them. To give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt, this may well be the case, and it’s hard to imagine such high profile actors in this day and age signing onto something quite as questionable as this. Even assuming it is all one big misunderstanding, however, they undoubtedly have a responsibility to make their intentions clear to their audience — which, in Get Hard‘s case, will be largely comprised of immature and impressionable teens less inclined to ask questions of the source material or consider the off-screen clarification of those involved. After all, they’re the only demographic likely to find it even remotely funny.
Get Hard is so dreadful, in fact, that Hart is probably the best thing in it. There is a scene in James’ tennis court — made out to resemble a prison courtyard — in which Darnell impersonates three different gang leaders, transitioning seamlessly between personas as he attempts to intimidate his student. Hart may still be incapable of landing a laugh, but at least we now know he can actually act.