What do you get when you cast a fading comedian with a prominent one? “Get Hard.” James King, played by Will Ferrell, is a billionaire accused of fraud. Sentenced to ten years in a maximum security prison, James seeks out guidance from Darnell (Kevin Hart), a car-washer, to teach him how to survive in prison. James assumes Darnell has been to jail based on his race and Darnell fakes a “how-to” guide in order to get the money needed to move his family out of his dangerous neighborhood.
The film’s take on racial stereotypes is distasteful. As Will Ferrell struts in his “Lil Wayne apparel” next to Kevin Hart, the scene is reminiscent of Steve Martin alongside Queen Latifah in “Bringing Down the House.” And yet, that movie didn’t hit quite the same nerve as “Get Hard” manages to. Darnell jingles James’s car keys after a car wash and James yells in fear since he thinks he is about to be robbed. The film’s portrayal of thugs and gangsters induces plenty of eye-rolling. At one point, a gang member chuckles at his “love for murdering.” However, Darnell seeking some prison tips from T.I. is subtly clever, considering the rapper has served prison time.
When the film isn’t failing at attempts to make racial stereotypes humorous, it utilizes redundant bodily jokes and plays with the suggestiveness of the title at least three times. We get it. In its defense, the film was doomed from the start. The movie is a remake of the failed 2007 Rob Schneider comedy “Big Stan,” only in that film, a martial arts instructor, played by David Carradine (“Kill Bill), takes the place of Kevin Hart. Alison Brie (“Community”) overacts as a gold digger, emphasizing her innocent tone until it’s babyish. Kevin Hart bursting into a white supremacist gang with a flame thrower recommending to them that they listen to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech is a bit far-fetched. It seems rather out of place considering he had just given Will Ferrell “a free pass” of letting him use the n-word, which was cringe-worthy to say the least.
Ferrell and Hart both use their bodies for comedy. The difference is that Ferrell’s repeated nudity no longer strikes the funny bone. As he flashes his manly parts to his gardener while performing squats, the viewer is reminded of the many times Will Ferrell’s body has been exposed: “Old School,” “Talladega Nights,” “Semi-Pro,” “Blades of Glory.” On the other hand, there is Kevin Hart, stirring laughs as Ferrell picks up and throws his body at a villain. It’s hard not to crack a smile as Kevin Hart has to continuously jump to look at cars his employees are washing. A play on Kevin Hart’s height never gets old.
If anything remotely decent comes out of this film, it is the confirmation that Kevin Hart is masterful at delivering his lines. From stuttering, to shouting, to mere facial expressions, Hart is comic gold. One of the most memorable moments of the film is when Darnell turns James’s tennis court into a prison yard and portrays three different characters at once. Will Ferrell’s presence is repeatedly forgotten as Kevin Hart takes over the show. If that is not any indication that Will Ferrell needs to venture into a different genre, than I don’t know what is.
Sammi Brennan can be reached at Samantha.Brennan@spartans.ut.edu.