Synopsis: The prison-bound manager (Will Ferrell) of a hedge fund asks a black businessman (Kevin Hart) — who has never been to jail — to prepare him for life behind bars.
Release Date: March 27, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Comedy, Action
Hey, did you know that in prison there is a chance of sexual assault? Is that funny?! In case you didn’t know, let me point you in the direction of Get Hard, the comedic pairing of last-gen funny man Will Ferrell (The Campaign) and new-gen funny man Kevin Hart (Ride Along). Get Hard is what you get when a series of solid comedians team up for a razor thin script with no comedic through-line or compelling story. It’s a classic case of a film assuming it should be funny based purely on the people involved, but Get Hard never actually puts in the effort to drum up consistent laughs. In fact, a lot of the film’s humor is predicated on the stereotype that every inmate gets sexually assaulted in jail, which is disturbing in its own right.
The general conceit around Get Hard involves James King (Ferrell), a power player in the stock world that has been hit with some pretty serious criminal charges. King vehemently proclaims his innocence, but his claims fall on deaf ears. Like it or not, he’s headed to prison, and if he doesn’t prepare he’s likely to get eaten alive. Enter Darnell (Hart), a well-to-do black carwash entrepreneur who wants nothing more than to provide a better living situation for his family. After being confronted by King and asked to help “train” him for prison, Darnell reluctantly agrees despite not actually knowing what it’s like in jail. But basically Darnell is hired to prevent James from getting sexually assaulted. See the hilarity?
On a basic level, Get Hard is an obvious comedy with predictable plot points and unimaginative humor. It feels like the type of comedy that may have been made in the less progressive ’90s and likely would have fit right in. But in the 21st century, Get Hard‘s crass assumptions and latent homophobia are not just troubling, they are extremely off-putting. That isn’t to say that what Get Hard presumes about prison is untrue, but the way it beats the point home at every turn is exhausting.
And when the film is not using sexual assault or homophobic humor for cheap laughs, it tries to let Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell riff, which is a mistake. These two have fine chemistry, but the set-up is so threadbare that there isn’t much wiggle room comedically speaking. Ferrell does his usual oblivious goofy man shtick and Kevin Hart is always yelling or stressed out. It’s not particularly original material from either of them, although fans won’t mind too much.
The story doesn’t lend itself well to the comedy either, but instead puts the two actors in some really forced situations. There’s a particularly dull sequence involving a white supremacist club that hammers home just how lazy the screenwriting is in Get Hard. It doesn’t make sense at all in terms of the story and is only there to tick some sort of haphazard checklist. King first tries to assimilate with the African American gangs, who he greets in a get-up that’s straight out of ’90s MTV, and then moves on to the white supremacists. Not because that seems like the logical thing to do, but because that’s what the writers deemed funny if Will Ferrell does it. It’s not.
Get Hard is the definition of lazy comedic filmmaking. It rests entirely too much on the appeal of its stars and never leverages their strengths. The film assumes that by putting these two actors in a series of silly, yet unbelievable, situations that it can skate by. Not to mention its tone deaf reading of sexual assault’s place in a comedic setting. Somewhere, a test group found this particular plot line troubling and Get Hard tried to course correct, but the damage was already done. If you’re a major fan of either Will Ferrell or Kevin Hart, chances are you will laugh enough to feel slightly satisfied. Everyone else is better served skipping this one.
Get Hard is not a miserable experience, but its laughs are cheap and they latch on to unsavory topics. Prison humor is a tricky thing to balance, and the film goes in some very obvious ways. Not only that, it does so without tact or wit, choosing a blunt force approach that simply beats the audience over the head with: “Isn’t it funny that Will Ferrell is afraid of sexual assault?”
Even when the film is just trying to let Ferrell and Hart bounce off each other it struggles, because the two are clearly making the most of a threadbare script. They are well aware that Get Hard is a juvenile idea and probably above their talent level, but they still try and make the most of the experience. Try being the operative word. You’ll laugh a decent amount in Get Hard, but the amount of cringe-worthy moments offsets that.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Etan Cohen
- Screenwriter(s): Jay MartelIan RobertsEtan Cohen
- Cast: Will Farrell (James)Kevin Hart (Darnell)Craig T. Nelson (Martin) Alison Brie (Alissa)Edwina Findley Dickerson (Rita)
- Editor(s): Michael L. Sale
- Cinematographer: Tim Suhrstedt
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Christophe Beck
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA