Get Hard, 2015
Directed by Etan Cohen
Starring Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Craig T. Nelson, Alison Brie, T.I, Edwina Findley Dickerson, Ariana Neal, Paul Ben-Victor
When millionaire James King is nailed for fraud and bound for San Quentin, he turns to Darnell Lewis to prep him to go behind bars.
Imagine you’re Will Ferrell. There was a period in time when you were considered to be comedy royalty and everything you touched turned to belly laughs. Sadly, the last few years have been rather unkind and audiences have started to become immune to your efforts. Movies like The Other Guys and The Campaign blot a once stellar record of movies and the diabolical barrel-scrapping Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues has shown that you can’t even go back to the well and capture lightning a second time. So what do you do? Attach yourself to the latest thing in comedy, a man who is proving himself to be worth a pretty penny at the box office (even if The Wedding Ringer didn’t do as well as it probably should have done) and make a movie with him. That man is Kevin Hart, and the movie is Get Hard – the first decent movie from Will Ferrell in nearly a decade.
Farrell plays James King (not the film critic), a millionaire who has it all. A brilliant house, a beautiful fiancée and he’s about to become partners at the big faceless corporate money firm he works at. So self absorbed in his millionaire lifestyle is King that he is oblivious to the struggles of regular down trodden folk who have to do terrible things like catch the bus or take their kids to schools where you’re just as likely to get shot as you are taught maths. However he finds himself up the proverbial creek without a paddle in sight when he is arrested for embezzlement and given thirty days to get his affairs in order before he spends the next ten years in San Quentin. But in his depression haze he strikes a deal with low-rent car wash business owner Darnell to teach him how to survive in prison, because he assumes he’s already been in jail on account that he’s black. Darnell, of course, has not been to prison, but pretends he has and thus hilarity ensues.
And if you think the movie is nothing but rich white folk not understanding poor black folk for two hours, you’d be wrong. They also have a few gay jokes in there too.
Get Hard is a movie that doesn’t stray too far from what it knows. In the same vein as every comedy from Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, Get Hard pushes the boundaries of what is socially acceptable to say in public in order to get laughs. It plays up to black stereotypes just as much as it does white stuffy businessman stereotypes without colouring too far outside the lines. When it introduces gay characters, it plays up to their stereotypes and when Alison Brie is on screen, they play up that she is the rich Daddy’s girl stereotype. Oh, and Neo-Nazis – they also get some stereotypes played up too.
And that is the real problem behind Get Hard – it’s so safe in its comedy. It knows what it wants to be but never aims to be anything more than that. It’s incredibly formulaic not just in its story, but in its execution. Will Ferrell turns in your average Will Ferrell performance and Kevin Hart does the same thing he’s done since he first emerged onto the scene. There is nothing wrong in all of this of course, but if you’ve seen any movie starring either one of these actors, then you know what you’re getting with Get Hard. For as raunchy and wacky it tries to be, it feels so standard and nearly forgettable. On-set improvisation? You betcha! Kevin Hart being short and shrill? You got it! Will Ferrell doing a nude scene? How many would you like, sir?!
Oh, and if you think the title Get Hard is a bit funny and sounds like a euphemism, don’t worry because the film thinks so too. And thus will use it at great length.
But with all that said, Get Hard is actually quite funny. It’s not Step Brothers funny or Blades of Glory funny, and it’s certainly not Elf funny, but Get Hard does have a fair number of chuckles in there. When Ferrell is let off the leash and he can improvise his way around scenes, he shows that he still has a few tricks up his sleeve and the majority of the stereotypes they play up to are fairly humorous. Even Kevin Hart, a Marmite comedian if there ever was one, pulls out some decent laughs. It does suffer from a large portion of its jokes being shown in the trailer though (roughly 80% of them), which does hamper some of its impact.
It should be mentioned however that there is a massive problem with the lack of female presence in the movie. Just like Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting in The Wedding Ringer, poor old Alison Brie is demoted to a handful of scenes where she is given nothing to work with. She is given no jokes, she is given no real character or direction – she is just there to be pretty, put on some sexy lingerie and give Ferrell something else to lose when he gets arrested. She’s in the film because she has boobs and boobs look nice in lingerie. Edwina Findley Dickerson on the other hand is given slightly more to work with, but Get Hard is very much a boys-only club where funny women are allowed, but should not attempt to over shadow the leading lads.
In a sea of dreadful to average comedies we’ve been served up as of late (Dumb & Dumber To, The Wedding Ringer and Unfinished Business to name but a few), Get Hard stands head and shoulders above them because it actually has some funny jokes. If you walk into the movie knowing exactly what you are going to get, then you will have a ball. If you just want to see Will Ferrell say something slightly outrageous and Kevin Hart screech his lines of dialogue, then Get Hard is the perfect movie for you. It’s certainly not dreadful and at times is pretty good, but the best thing to say about it is that it’s Will Ferrell’s funniest effort in quite some time – though that is not saying much.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.