Film Review: Get Hard (★★)

get_hardIf you’ve seen any of the Trailers or TV Spots for the new comedy Get Hard, you know exactly what to expect here. Honestly, if you’ve seen those advertisements or can even think of what the likely bits and jokes contained within would be…congratulations, you’re right on the money. Get Hard takes a decent premise and does very little original with it. You basically have both Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart doing their normal schtick, just with the ability to bounce off of each other. While that certainly has potential, co-writer/director Etan Cohen mostly just takes the lowest common denomenator, preferring to eschew any opportunities to really go in for some insightful satire. That doesn’t mean that the movie isn’t funny, because it is from time to time, but it’s lazy in a way that bums you out. Comedy films don’t need to re-invent the wheel, but without anything you don’t already expect, there’s very little that the flick can share that you can’t get from a Trailer. That’s never a good thing. Essentially, we have Ferrell and Hart really trying to make mostly offensive jokes work, which is only sporadically a successful endeavor. Depending on your tolerance for off color jokes, you might find this more or less entertaining. Regardless, it’s almost assuredly going to let you down to some degree. The question will just be…how much and is it worth it? I say, no. Get Hard winds up being, frankly, a little bit limp.

The set up isn’t actually that bad. Hedge fund millionaire James King (Ferrell) is living a luxurious life of blissful ignorance, thrilled beyond belief while existing in his 1% bubble, complete with a girlfriend in Alissa (Alison Brie) who is solely in it for the money. That bubble bursts when he’s nailed for massive fraud and is more or less immediately sentenced to a long prison stretch. Given 30 days to go and get his affairs in order, he decides to seek out someone who’s been on the inside in order to prepare himself. The clueless sort that he is, he just goes to the only African American man he knows, which is the blue collar car detailer Darnell Lewis (Hart), assuming he’s done time. Darnell is an honest family man with a struggling business, so after initially being offended, he decides to play along and make sure James “gets hard” before going to San Quentin. Of course, James is also clearly innocent, so periodically the story skips between his prep vignettes to see if he and Darnell can catch the true culprit, James’ boss Martin (Craig T. Nelson). Some of the individual sequences work, but the overall product is just lazy.

get-hard-trailerThis is standard issue Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart here. If you like what they usually do, you’ll get more of the same in this film. Ferrell is perhaps slightly more annoying than usual while Hart is slightly less so, but these are characters you’ll feel like you’ve seen before from them both. I will say that they have strong chemistry together, but even that, as well as their legitimately impressive efforts, can’t sell all of the un-PC jokes that fly around. They’re not unenjoyable in their roles, but they don’t break out in any way. Alison Brie is completely wasted and basically walks around in a state of near undress for a bit, while Craig T. Nelson has almost nothing to do either. The supporting cast includes the likes of rapper T.I., Edwina Findley Dickerson, Ariana Neal, Paul Ben-Victor, as well as John Mayer in an amusing cameo, though no one leaves too much of an impression. This is all about Ferrell and Hart having a blast, with audiences left to enjoy what little they can of it.

As a writer, Etan Cohen has had a bit of an underrated career, so giving him a shot to direct makes a lot of sense. Sadly though, he doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of filmmaking ability. What’s worse is the screenplay that he co-wrote with Jay Martel and Ian Roberts (Martel and Roberts originally developed the story with Ferrell cohort Adam McKay) is probably his least developed to date. That’s not a good starting off point, and Cohen fills Get Hard with boring shots and simple set ups that never challenge the viewer. It was never going to be Shakespeare, but there’s not much of a touch on display at all.

When you get right down to it, Get Hard is basically a raunchy comedy that missed an opportunity to actually have some intelligent laughs based on race relations. Something like Trading Places did that sort of thing much better years ago, but that’s another story. If you’re a huge Ferrell or Hart fan, I know you’re on board, but you should definitely lower your expectations. Get Hard has some laughs, but it’s still a pretty big letdown in the end.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!