A movie review of “Get Hard”: This politically incorrect romp, about a man preparing for prison, only rarely romps, but it has its moments. Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart star. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.
Kevin Hart finds himself shoehorned into a Will Ferrell buddy comedy in “Get Hard,” a politically incorrect romp that only rarely romps.
It’s a “Trading Places” variation, with Ferrell as James, a top-dollar fund manager busted by the feds and set to go to prison. So he turns to someone for help in acquiring survival skills for “inside,” to “Get Hard” enough to not be killed. How’d he pick Darnell, the small-business man from South Central who runs an executive’s carwash service?
“I was being black,” Darnell (Hart) tells his wife (Edwina Findley Dickerson).
Movie Review ★★
‘Get Hard,’ with Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Edwina Findley Dickerson, T.I., Craig T. Nelson, John Mayer. Directed by Etan Cohen, from a screenplay by Jay Martel, Ian Roberts and Cohen. 100 minutes. Rated R for pervasive crude and sexual content and language, some graphic nudity and drug material. Several theaters.
Ferrell and his team of writers play around with this familiar salt-and-pepper combo to expose the arrogant, prissy 1 percenter/Harvard Business School alum to African-American culture and his prejudices about it. Hip-hop, Lil Wayne wardrobe, trash talk and slang, James studies up. Not that he learns to see past his prejudices, any more than the film does.
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The joke about Darnell is that he’s anything but “hard.” He’s a doting daddy with no police record. But he takes a big chunk of cash from James to school him, converts the man’s Bel Air mansion into a version of San Quentin and fakes his way through how to eat, act and defend yourself in “The Yard.” That involves Hart imitating black thugs, Chicano prison gangsters and Yard queens.
Darnell takes a few tips from his genuinely hard Crenshaw cousin (T.I.), toys with James’ Afro-phobia and their shared homophobia in the training. “Get Hard” minces into places it shouldn’t in the process.
But that’s largely the point here — crossing lines no one else still crosses. Generally, this movie doesn’t so much invert stereotypes as embrace them. Very retro.
It’s hit or miss material, with Ferrell playing it stiff and goofy and Hart straight-jacketed into a character that is rarely top-drawer Kevin Hart funny. One gag that works: The Hispanic servants at James’ mansion giddily get into playing fellow inmates who torment their insufferable, superrich boss. One “lights out” riot (strobed) is a hoot.
Craig T. Nelson is the too-obvious villain, but John Mayer scores as a self-aware/self-mocking version of his lady-killer image.
Ferrell is as fearless as ever, stripping down and looking foolish, willing to be out-of-touch and out-of-step. Hart has his manic moments.
But in this buddy comedy, the buddies are not equal and that limits the laughs.