I think it’s safe to say that when you call your movie “Get Hard,” you’re begging for audiences to go in with low expectations. It’s the kind of title that screams, “This is the only part of the movie we put any kind of effort in.” So, I went into Etan Cohen’s new comedy expecting to laugh maybe a few times—mostly out of politeness—and then just wait for it to end so I could go home and write my scathing review.
To my astonishment, “Get Hard” is not only funny but consistently funny, a major plus. It’s often difficult to sustain comedic momentum over the course of a feature length film, particularly when the comedy isn’t striving for much. “Get Hard” isn’t a revolutionary picture, it acknowledges and sort of plays around with common racial—both black and white—ethnic and cultural stereotypes but it’s not out to change the world, nor is it a scathing satire. Instead it simply wants to use those stereotypes to tell raunchy jokes. And it does. And it had me laughing…a lot. There’s something to be said for that.
The movie’s greatest strength is the first ever paring of comedic titan Will Ferrell and relatively new comedian Kevin Hart—although, up until now he’s been in a string of mainstream comedies and checking his IMDB page he shows no signs of stopping—a pairing that’s superb. One I hope to see more of in the future.
Ferrell plays James, a doormat executive at a stock company who’s framed for fraud and sentenced to ten years in a maximum-security prison. Patronizing and wimpy, naïve and idiotic—James is a standard issue Ferrell character and watching “Get Hard” you’ll be reminded of his countless other movies. However, much like other well known comedic personas—Jim Carrey, Jonah Hill, to name a few—Ferrell is damn good at what he does and here he makes it look effortless. The square, technical way he delivers lines, his childlike ignorance towards urban culture and his penchant for having mini freak-outs and bouts of pathetic weeping is impeccable. And when matched with Hart’s own comedic persona, it’s even better.
In general, I think Hart is hit and miss. In movies such as “Think Like a Man” and the horrendous “Ride Along” he mainly plays the hyperbolic sidekick. Kicking and screaming, jumping up and down like a peppy dog. It can be funny and it can wear thin real quickly. In Cohen’s film Hart plays a slightly toned down, more matured version of this persona, one that proves to be refreshing. He’s Darnell, a working class family man that’s hired to teach James how to be tough in prison to avoid anal rape—a stereotype that provides the basis for a large majority of the jokes—the only problem is, Darnell isn’t exactly the tough type and is in some ways just as wimpy as James. I wouldn’t necessarily call him the straight man of the duo but he’s not the clown either. In fact both actors take turns being the clown and the straight man.
Together, the two have phenomenal chemistry—their comic personas perfectly bouncing off the other. Just when you start to get tired of one, the other swoops in to save the scene. For the most part Cohen doesn’t let each of the individual set pieces go on for too long. Even during those extended sequences where Ferrell and Hart were clearly given the go ahead to improvise off one another for as long as possible, I never felt fatigued. Overall, the script by Cohen, Jay Martel and Ian Roberts keeps the focus on the central duo, with little attention to the actual plot. One of the worst offenses a comedy can make is getting bogged down in plot exposition at the expense of jokes, especially when the plot is generic and predictable. It’s pretty clear right away who sets up James.
With all that being said, the movie isn’t perfect and not just because of the normal flaws—scenes going on for too long easy gross out humor, an action filled finale etc.—that plague comedies like this. The movie can be homophobic at times, mainly in regards to James’ fear of getting raped in prison, as well as misogynistic. The only prominent female character is James’ finance Alissa (Alison Brie) whose sole character traits are “gold digger” and “sex object.” It’s not completely surprising to see homophobia and misogyny in a comedy like this but it’s worth noting and it’s the main reason why “Get Hard” never rises above being a solid raunchy comedy.
Even so, I still can’t deny the fun time I had at “Get Hard.” The picture isn’t destined to be a comedy classic and it certainly isn’t going to satisfy everyone’s taste, but it satisfied mine. Any comedy that can keep me laughing for its entire duration is worth the time in my book.