By this point you know exactly what to expect from a Will Ferrell or Kevin Hart movie. You can count on some goofy and juvenile humor, some exaggerated overacting, a few slightly uncomfortably honest jokes about race and Ferrell displaying his pale, naked butt.
Get Hard — their first collaboration — is your standard Ferrell/Hart vehicle that’s rarely witty enough to live up to its potential, but still delivers enough laughs for those seeking a silly comedy.
Ferrell plays James King, an obnoxiously wealthy Wall Street financial investor bringing in millions for his soon to be father-in-law Martin’s (Craig T. Nelson) company.
James’ financial wizardry and otherwise clueless demeanor makes him a perfect catch for Martin’s money-grubbing sexpot daughter Alissa (Alison Brie). It also makes him the ideal fall guy when federal investigators target the company for fraud.
With 30 days to prepare for an extreme prison stay, James turns to Darnell (Hart), the one black person he knows, who he erroneously assumes served a prison term, for advice on surviving life behind bars.
Darnell, a car wash owner, agrees to make a series of prison rape jokes help James out in exchange for $30,000, which Darnell wants to use as a deposit on a new home and provide a safer school environment for his daughter.
But since he’s just as clueless to prison life as James, Darnell tries to play up every conceivable black male stereotype before seeking further advice from his stereotypical gangbanger cousin, Russell (hip hop star T.I.) and his gun-touting, weed smoking gang. Good thing Darnell’s wife Rota (Edwina Findley Dickerson) is a nurse or James’ assumptions would prove correct.
Screenwriters Jay Martel and Ian Roberts miss that irony completely, but do work in a few inspired jabs at one-percenters who got a big break from legacy money while expecting others to work hard without such luxuries. The majority of the jokes are fairly obvious gags you’d cross off in just about every prison comedy checklist.
Screenwriter Etan Cohen (Men in Black 3) makes his directorial debut here. Commendably, Cohen doesn’t get overwhelmed despite two charismatic stars who left unchecked can dominate a film and make it a one-man show.
Cohen aspires to give the film a modern day Trading Places or 48 Hours feel, but plays up to the strength of his leads and lets them have zanier, over-the-top moments.
It largely works due to the fun chemistry of Ferrell and Hart, but Cohen could have cut 10 or 15 minutes to improve the pacing. Some gags go on too long and lose their impact.
Get Hard won’t be considered a comedy classic by any means, but it’s appropriately goofy and will have some laughing more often then they’d care to admit. Set your expectations to ‘silly’ and you won’t be disappointed by the first of hopefully more Ferrell/Hart collaborations.
Review: 6 out of 10
Photo credit: Patti Perret/Warner Bros. Entertainment