Get Hard

Rated R {1 out of 5 stars}

They don’t come any bigger than Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart. Not in the world of comedy, at least. Consider their differences and similarities for a moment: Ferrell is a veteran, a seemingly timeless giant with now 20 years of runaway success from television to the box office. Hart is a relative newcomer to stardom, but his career is literally on fire, rising like a phoenix from Arizona. Ferrell is white. Hart is black. Both are loud, both are physical. Both have cross-cultural appeal. So, despite it being overkill, you can see, at least from the point of gross potential, why previews for the pair’s first buddy comedy, Get Hard, have been crammed down your throat like a bottle of Ipecac for the past two months.

The premise is stupid: Ferrell plays James Baldwin, a filthy rich stock broker who’s just made partner. Out of nowhere he’s arrested on charges of embezzlement. The judge then decides to throw the book at him with a sentence of 10 years in San Quentin, aka a maximum security prison. With 30 days to get his personal affairs in order (?), James ultimately seeks the help of Darnell (Hart), who runs a carwash business from the parking garage of the firm James works for. Despite being a family man with no criminal record, Darnell dupes James into thinking he’s an ex-con, who will therefore be able to properly prepare him for the trials and tribulations of prison. This, of course, provided James pays him $30,000 to cover the down payment for a new house, which will ensure his young daughter gets into a better school district.

What follows is 90 or so minutes of I’m white, you’re black; I’m rich, you’re poor; and isn’t it funny how different we are? To be sure, there are laughs. Ferrell and Hart are simply too naturally gifted and charismatic not to make you chuckle and guffaw. In some misguided way, the film is a testament to their individual comedic ability. Because if you inserted, say, Kevin James and Chris Tucker into this same stale formula? Dear God.

Get Hard is simply stuck in a bygone era. For example, there’s a point where Ferrell has been accepted as a member of a gang in Crenshaw, and is in turn teaching the young toughs the ins and outs of white-collar moneymaking. Isn’t it funny to hear two 40-drinking, jive-talking black men argue vehemently over taxable income as opposed to drugs and hoes? Get it? Because black people never speak intelligently about things like taxes!

Umm, no, actually, it’s not. Aside from the obvious fact that it’s racially absurd, it’s also just plain not funny. That bit was lame 15 years ago in Me, Myself and Irene. The same goes for pathetic jabs at white culture, which leave Ferrell confused about things like hip-hop and wondering if he should go back into the house to grab the “gin and juice.”

And as if running tired white-men-can’t-dance bits into the ground wasn’t enough, Get Hard is also homophobic. When I mentioned before that Hart’s role in the film was to prepare Ferrell for the hardships of prison life, I should have been more specific. His role, emphatically emphasized, is to keep Ferrell’s character from being raped in prison. Honest to God that’s the central theme of the plot; to keep Ferrell from being a “bitch.” There is a scene—I shit you not—where Hart becomes so exasperated by Ferrell’s apparent lack of toughness, that it’s decided he should just learn to “suck dick.” So they go to a trendy gay brunch restaurant and Hart picks a man out of the crowd for Ferrell to take into the bathroom stall and blow, which he does, unsuccessfully. I wish for the sake of the reader that I could adequately describe the uncomfortableness of that scene’s entirety, but it’s really not possible. The humor is so embarrassingly immature and dated that you simply have to see it for yourself.

I’m pleasantly surprised, however, to find Get Hard taking heat for these infractions on a national level. Moments of levity aside, it deserves to be mocked and criticized for the ‘90s relic that it is, a sad and tired homage to the likes of Rush Hour. Hopefully both Ferrell and Hart get the point, because they’re both far better than this worn-out reel of garbage would otherwise suggest.