'Get Hard' needs to get the hell out of here.
Here’s a no-brainer for you: Take Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell, two of America’s funniest and most popular comedians, find an excuse to put them in a bunch of scenes together, and let them go. Tickets will be sold by the millions, people will laugh, checks will be ginormous, and a good time will be had by all. Get Hard should have been great, but the material is so off-base and dated it’s a wonder Hart and Ferrell, two of the most in-demand actors in the industry, didn’t take one look at the script and toss it straight into the trash.
Everything you’ve heard about Get Hard—that it’s unforgivably racist and homophobic—is pretty much true, though I found it much more unfunny than offensive. Race and homophobia are sensitive subjects that have been mined for comedy for decades, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The truth is, as a country we’re still tragically insecure and anxious about gay people and minorities, and humor is a great way to address those issues and acknowledge the absurdity of it all so that we might further the conversation and amend our ignorances. That sort of comedy takes a deft hand, though, so as not to seriously offend anyone, and in this sense, Get Hard fumbles hard, landing flat on its face.
Ferrell plays James King, a rich, gifted hedge-fund manager whose affluent upbringing has molded him into a walking pile of prejudice and entitlement, oblivious to the world outside his bubble of mansions, fast cars, and tailored suits. He’s an expert at white things, and a bumbling idiot when it comes to poor minority things. When he’s arrested for fraud and embezzlement, he hires his black car-washer, Darnell (Hart) to get him prison-ready in thirty days. In reality, Darnell’s a pansy family man who’s never been to and doesn’t know the first thing about jail, but the idea of a law-abiding black man doesn’t exist in King’s bubble. The rest of the movie plays out like a protracted training montage, with an inconsequential storyline about James trying to clear his name thrown in because…plot.
Director Etan Cohen, Jay Martel, and Ian Roberts wrote the script. Yes, they’re all white dudes, but surely they can’t be as insensitive and clueless as James, a character of their own creation, right? Right?! To answer this question, let’s examine an atrocious scene about halfway through the movie. James is in a bathroom stall of a gay establishment getting ready to perform fellatio on an impatient stranger (comedian Matt Walsh) as one of Darnell’s prison survival exercises. James looks frightened, and we see glimpses of the stranger’s dick. It’s clearly meant to be shocking that we’re seeing Ferrell’s face inches away from a dick, but the only thing shocking is how clumsy and unfunny it is, and the only dicks of consequence are the dicks who wrote this damn thing. Are we not past the point of finding gay sex yucky? It’s a question of taste, really. If you find rape jokes funny, boy, are you in for a treat with this movie; asses get stuffed and unstuffed aplenty. If that’s not funny to you, um…don’t see this movie. Can’t make it any clearer.
The saddest thing is, Hart and Ferrell are better than this. Ferrell is a natural when it comes to playing dimwitted, confused white guys, and Hart’s manic, firework energy is a perfect complement. These guys are really, really funny, and the fact that the writers felt they needed to resort to dick shots, rape humor, and stale race jokes to make audiences laugh is senseless and desperate. Hart and Ferrell have been making millions and millions of people laugh for years and years. They don’t need help! Hell, even the height disparity between them is funny! There are a few scenes in which they get to flex their comedic muscle, like a showcase in which Hart plays three types of thug in a prison yard exercise with Ferrell reacting like a scared little boy. These improvised moments work because the stars feel like they’re playing off of each other freely, unimpeded by the poorly crafted script.
Alison Brie plays James’ greedy fiancé, and Craig T. Nelson plays her father, who also happens to be James’ boss. They show up whenever the plot needs to move forward, and are otherwise inconsequential. T.I. surprisingly emerges as the film’s breakout performer, playing Darnell’s thuggish cousin. Despite the role being staggeringly stereotypical, the rapper somehow manages to make his character the most believable and authentic in the entire movie.
It’s hard to be truly insulted by a comedy when it’s this moronic and misguided. I can understand if people find Get Hard offensive, but pitiful seems a more apt word to me. There are some chuckles to be had here, because with such gifted and reliable talent that’s pretty much a given. But the vehicle that houses Hart and Ferrell is so scummy and poorly crafted it isn’t worth anyone’s time.