Imagine the pitch meeting for Get Hard:
“What’s not funny about prison rape? Am I right?”
“Or using ‘keister’ as a verb! Hey-oooo!”
A raunchy ebony-and-ivory buddy comedy, Get Hard is essentially a long riff on the terror of becoming another man’s prison bitch. Or, even more horrifying, a white man becoming a black man’s. Except for when it’s also a riff on black stereotypes.
And honestly, who deserves to pull a train behind bars more than a rich hedge-fund manager? Before his lavish wedding to the boss’ gold-digging daughter, James (Will Ferrell) is framed for fraud and embezzlement, and has 30 days before slammer-time. He’s so terrified of becoming someone’s bitch that he hires the only black guy he knows, his building’s car-wash guy, Darnell (Kevin Hart), to teach him to survive behind bars.
“The hilarious irony: James is a huge pussy! Get it?”
Darnell’s a khaki-and-polo-wearing family man, no more gangsta than Cosby, as someone close to him points out. He needs money for a home loan, so he pulls his “prison school” lessons out of his own . . . (See: “keister,” above.)
But sensitivity and comedy are mortal enemies. Setting aside any consideration of taste—or the concept of taste—Get Hard is marginally funny with a handful of solid laughs, and it goes limp in the final act. Along with such hilarity as Darnell telling James that if he can’t fight, he’s going to have to practice sucking dick, there are a few clever satirical moments that’ll be lost on, say, northern Idaho audiences.
If you’ve seen most any Will Ferrell movie—not to mention his naked keister—this is more of the same oblivious man-child doofus. Nearly a foot shorter, Hart’s the motor-mouthed straight man and sight gag.
With the talent behind this movie, it should be more than marginally funny. Co-writer and first-time director Etan Cohen wrote Tropic Thunder, whose racial humor was a lot less like something generated in an Oklahoma frat house. (Bringing James to a white-supremacist group to ask for protection inside the joint, Darnell tells James to go ahead and practice calling him That One Word.) Key & Peele’s Jay Martel and Ian Roberts co-phoned-in the script, from a story by Ferrell and his lifemate Adam McKay (Anchorman, Step Brothers).
If I were in that pitch meeting, I’d have piped up with, “I don’t know. Some of these jokes about sodomy feel just plain . . . forced!”
GET HARD Opens Fri., March 27 at Sundance Cinemas and other theaters. Rated R. 100 minutes.