The 400-Word Review: Get Hard
By Sean Collier
March 30, 2015
The lowbrow fish-out-of-water comedy Get Hard is a movie that was very afraid of being any good.
The ingredients were there: Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, two of the most naturally-funny leading men of contemporary comedy. Alison Brie and Edwina Findley Dickerson, two criminally underutilized comedic talents. Story input from hitmaker Adam McKay and a trio of screenwriters — Jay Martel, Ian Roberts and Etan (don’t call him Ethan) Cohen — with long resumes.
The premise, hackneyed though it may be, isn’t without merit: James (Ferrell), a marshmallow of an investment banker, is arrested for a litany of financial charges. He claims innocence and rejects a plea deal, only to be sentenced to 10 years in San Quentin. Terrified, he enlists the help of his car-wash guy, Darnell (Hart); he needs to know how to survive prison, and Darnell is the only person in his universe who appears to be street smart.
There are even a respectable number of funny lines and decently-constructed bits surviving in Get Hard. But it seems that at some point, rather than risk relying on a funny cast and actual humor, a mandate was handed to the team behind this film: get as broad as possible in a hurry.
That means that the vast majority of Get Hard’s jokes fall into one of two camps: the white people and black people are different stuff, and the men turn gay in prison stuff.
I can already hear Tumblr sharpening its knives.
Yes, the maneuver Get Hard employs most often is simply Will Ferrell acting black. It’s not explicitly bigoted in that no outright malice is intended, though it’s certainly retrograde and lazy. More troubling is the fear-of-sexuality trope hammered into the ground here; one of the guiding assumptions of this film is that gay sex is gross, a downright hurtful source of failed humor I thought Hollywood was finally outgrowing. (Like many recent comedies, Get Hard introduces a gay character and insists that James and Darnell are cool with him as a half-assed apology for itself.)
As has become de rigueur, the women are neglected throughout as well. Whoever thought that this cast wouldn’t be game to sell a comedy without a barrage of stupid jokes should be removed from influence immediately. Get Hard isn’t a total waste, thanks to the unstoppable appeal of its stars. But it doesn’t come close to overcoming its own stupidity.
My Rating: 4/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark