When two of the funniest actors working today decide to take part in a project helmed by the person behind one of my favourite comedies in recent years, I get excited. The appropriately named Get Hard meets these criteria with Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart forming the movie’s ‘duo ignoramus’ and Etan Cohen following up his work on Tropic Thunder to direct a feature film for the first time.
It may not hit all the right notes but Get Hard did put a smile on my face…
• Director: Etan Cohen
• Exhibition: 2D
• Rating: 15
• Run Time: 100 mins
James King (Ferrell) is a high-earning, future-partner at his firm. When he is tried and convicted of fraud, his life falls apart – his boss leaves him high and dry, his fiancé (Alison Brie) breaks up with him and John Mayer writes a best-selling song that heavily insults him. In his hour of need, he turns to Darnell (Hart) – who runs the car wash service at his building. Knowing that he will not last seven minutes in San Quentin and believing Darnell is a former convict (based purely on his skin colour), James convinces Darnell to teaches him how to survive in prison.
Darnell is in fact, an upstanding citizen with no prison time under his belt at all. However, he is desperate to get his daughter out of public school and move his family to a better neighbourhood. He jumps at the chance to earn some quick money from James and concocts a survival guide and step-by-step program to get James ‘hard’.
Even the title of the movie gives you a pretty good idea what the tone it will employ. However, when Get Hard begins with an opening credits sequence that uses horizontal split-screen shots to compare the lives of the rich and poor of Los Angeles, you get the feeling that there will be a message behind all of the laughter. Straight away, James and Darnell’s class status is established, with one working in one of the top floors of a skyscraper while the other toils in the basement car park.
It is a mild disappointment then that the movie fails to take that message any further. Watching something like Blazing Saddles, the stupidity of racism is repeatedly touched on – all the while your sides are splitting! In Get Hard, the opening critical look at class inequality in the US is left behind in favour of multiple dick jokes.
Admittedly, there are some good dick jokes, as well as some funny situational surprises throughout. However, some of the cruder jokes either do not land or actually offend. Ferrell and Hart put in some good performances and keep you chuckling for long periods in the movie, but I cringed in discomfort a few too many times to ignore – the scene set in the café bathroom especially.
While James and Darnell are portrayed as buffoons whose antics form the butt of most of the jokes, it does not stop the movie from relying on stereotypes to either get laughs or progress its story. This is disappointing as there certainly seems to be enough chemistry between Ferrell and Hart to keep the movie going. Darnell’s cousin just so happens to be a gang leader – used later to help James get protection on the inside. James’ housekeepers are portrayed as having to put up with a lot of terrible treatment from their boss but are then only given clichéd comedy moments when the tables turn.
Get Hard certainly made me laugh – so you may immediately think “mission accomplished”. However, it could have been a lot more. The interplay between Ferrell and Hart delivered some genuine belly-laughs but I shook my head in disbelief too many times to give the movie a free ride. If you are a fan of Ferrell or Hart, you will get some enjoyment from Get Hard – though a better-written Get Harder excites me more.