When idiot millionaire hedge-fund manager (Ferrell) James King is sentenced to 10 years in notorious prison San Quentin for securities fraud and embezzlement, he recruits squeaky-clean but cash-strapped carwash-business owner Darnell Lewis (Hart) to tutor him in jail-survival skills, having made the casually racist assumption that Darnell himself has done time.
With its horizontal split-screen opening credits, showing in parallel the haves and have-nots of Los Angeles, and the establishment of its two leads Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell at their respective places in the basement and top floor of the financial tower, Get Hard gives the initial impression of having a timely social conscience. Yet, despite retaining a sliver of anti-one-percenter sentiment, it’s a movie 99 percent concerned with dick jokes.
It soon becomes intolerably uncomfortable. Especially as, like most of the jokes in Get Hard from the title itself onwards, they’re rarely clever enough to forgive. Example one: in explaining how likely it is that Ferrell’s white-collar con-to-be will be raped in San Quentin, bogus-prison-expert Hart says, “they might as well call it San Fuckin’, man!” Example two: having given up on developing his risible fighting skills, Hart instead takes Ferrell to a pleasant gay hang-out to master fellatio. But this proves even tougher for Ferrell to take, and he emerges from his disastrous toilet cubicle encounter with fresh yard-strutting resolve. Conclusion? “Fear of dick-sucking will give a man strength.”
For a movie whose premise depends on the mockery of someone who offensively stereotypes (Ferrell’s character assumes that Hart’s has been to prison), it deals heavily in stereotypes itself, wanting its cake and eating it too. Hart’s straight-and-narrow character, it transpires, conveniently has a cousin (rapper T.I.) who’s a Crenshaw gang leader — just so Ferrell’s can win his crew over (“the stock market is gangsta!”) and learn to slack-jawedly appreciate booty popping. Of which there are repeated scenes.
The savvy conjunction of comedy fanbases, appreciators both of shouty manchild antics and helium-fuelled rat-a-tat patter, may spell solid success for this mismatched bromance. But, despite earning the occassional weak chuckle, everybody involved (including Tropic Thunder writer Etan Cohen, making his directorial debut) is punching well below their weight.
Belying its title, this is a pretty flaccid offering which fails to gel the comedy stylings of Hart and Ferrell.