From its juvenile double entendre title to its fascination with prison rape and homophobic humor, “Get Hard” practically announces itself as an offensive, tired and unimaginative comedy in nearly every scene.
And yet I didn’t hate it because Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart had such terrific comedic chemistry. One can only hope they find a better vehicle if they decide to pair up again.
Just about any vehicle would drive better than this clunker.
It almost defies belief that in 2015, we’re still getting comedies that rely so heavily on racial and gay stereotypes, not to mention an endless barrage of jokes about what happens to men who go to prison.
They get raped. Isn’t that hilarious?
Other than the myriad screenwriters who have beaten that “joke” to death and hack comedians wondering why they can’t get past Open Mic Night in some dungeon of a comedy club, does anybody feel the world needs more prison rape humor?
We get a lot of it “Get Hard.” And none of it is funny.
Ferrell is in prime dimwit blowhard mode as James King, a wealthy financial analyst who lives in a mansion in Bel Air, is engaged to the beautiful Alissa (Alison Brie) and has just been made partner at his firm by its founder, Martin (Craig T. Nelson), who is Alissa’s father. The world is his oyster.
But though we’re talking about a dopey comedy here, “Get Hard” doesn’t even try to disguise the true nature of Alissa and Martin. They’re caricatures. We discern their true motives 30 seconds after they first appear onscreen.
As for James, he’s supposedly this financial genius — but he’s such a moron outside the office, we don’t believe this guy can balance a checkbook, let alone make multi-million-dollar deals every day. Animated characters have more depth. This guy’s in his 40s, and he’s so clueless it’s a miracle he can find his way to the office every morning.
Another problem: James is a flat-out racist. That’s basically the set-up of this movie.
Kevin Hart plays Darnell, the hardworking and ambitious operator of a local car wash. Darnell lives in Crenshaw with his strong and supportive wife Rita (Edwina Findley Dickerson) and his kind and smart daughter Makayla (Ariana Neal). Darnell has dreams of getting his family out of the neighborhood and his daughter into a better school.
After James is convicted of fraud and sentenced to 10 years hard time in San Quentin, he turns to the only black man he knows: Darnell, who washes his car. Darnell’s black, so James assumes Darnell has been in prison. If Darnell can teach James how to “get hard” so James won’t — you guessed it — get raped in prison, James will pay Darnell $30,000.
And away we go.
Darnell turns James’ home into a makeshift prison, with the various minorities who work for James portraying prison guards and other inmates. He brings James into the inner circle of the Crenshaw Kings, a murderous gang run by his cousin Russell (T.I.), which gives “Get Hard” an excuse to explore racial stereotypes for laughs. (James’ idea to fit in with the Kings: blackface. Mercifully, “Get Hard” doesn’t actually go there, instead opting to have James dress in the same style as Lil Wayne.)
When all else fails, you play the “Straight Guys Repulsed by Homosexuality” card. Convinced the only way James can survive in prison is to perform sexual acts on other inmates, James and Darnell frequent a popular brunch spot for gays — and soon James is in a bathroom stall, trying to work up the courage to do the deed.
Every once in a while, “Get Hard” produces a big laugh, almost in spite of itself. The best moments come when there’s an attempt at turning Darnell and James into real characters, e.g., a silly but sweet dinner scene at Darnell’s house. And I have to admit I laughed at some of the slapstick fight scenes, with Ferrell and Hart (and their stunt doubles) giving it 100 percent in the name of getting stupid laughs.
Those were isolated moments in a sea of cheap jokes.
Hey. You know what happens in prison? Hold on, this is a real knee-slapper…
Warner Bros. presents a film directed by Etan Cohen and written by Cohen, Jay Martel and Ian Roberts. Running time: 100 minutes. Rated R (for pervasive crude and sexual content and language, some graphic nudity, and drug material). Opens Friday at local theaters.