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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Movie Review: Get Hard

The comedy Get Hard merely survives and never elevates into something new.

Review by Matt Cummings

In the raunchy comedy Get Hard, James (Will Ferrell) is a successful hedge fund manager whose slick deals and sixth sense about the market sees him making money hand-over-fist for his boss (Craig T. Nelson), whose gold-digging daughter (Brie Larson) is really in it for the money. Meanwhile, Darrell (Kevin Hart) is struggling to get his car wash business to the next level, while his family dreams of a better life in an upscale neighborhood. That isn't going to happen unless Darrell can post a $30,000 deposit which he hopes James can help him secure. But when James becomes the scapegoat for securities fraud, he turns to Darrell to him help prepare for prison life. Even though Darrell is black, he's no hardened criminal, but takes the offer with the promise of getting his money. Through a series of misadventures, the duo tries desperately to relate to one another, before joining forces to exonerate James before he begins his prison time.

Get Hard is one of those movies that you enjoy while you're watching but ultimately cannot remember once it's over. Look deeper into it and you realize why: it's directed by Etan Cohen, the same guy who crafted Idiocracy - one of my least favorite movies - and written by a team including long-time Ferrell collaborator Adam McKay. That formula worked in 2004, but now it feels tired and utterly predictable. Moreover, this universe makes James' and Darrell's positions feel real and grounded, rather than mere excuses for comedy; Darrell wants more for his family but just needs a break from someone like James, who looks to be the fall guy as the real thief gets away with the money. Knowing your world is why Anchorman is still so brilliant: we know something like that might have happened in the late 70s/early 80s, and from there it can bend reality just enough to make it hilarious. From the beginning of Get Hard, it's clear where our characters are going and what they will ultimately do to right their collective ships. When that moment finally arrives and the guys go after James' former boss - in what feels like the last 15 minutes - that resolution feels out of place, unrealistic, and wrapped up way too neatly.

I don't know how the gay community will react to the film, as they're placed in a pretty awful light, portrayed as one-night-standers with no morals and libidos the size of Texas. Ferrell and Hart discuss anal violations of all kinds, which I suppose we should celebrate since 50 Shades of Grey didn't have the nuts to do so. And then there's the nudity, including a flash of male junk and enough T&A to mimic a strip club. That's all well and good, but here it's unnecessary to the plot. Gay rape in prisons is probably an important topic of conversation for someone, but here it's trivialized until it just becomes tedious. This does lead to some funny moments, as the boys riff on the movie's title, to the arousal of gay men at a pick up location, but like I said you'd be hard pressed to remember any of it.

Ferrell and Hart do work well together, but it all feels practiced and not really funny or even inventive. Scenes go on way too long, including the opening sequence of Ferrell crying for what feels like minutes, while Hart's imitations of the various prison inmates that James will encounter could have been edited for better effect. Our test crowd went from genuinely laughing, to giggling, to politely chuckling before finally being led down the next skit that we've frankly already seen. I was thinking through most of the film how much better this would have been if Ferrell would been replaced by someone with more credibility as a Dan Aykroyd-type from Trading Places, whose ability to play the innocent banker-type would have worked against Hart's usually charismatic zaniness. Perhaps my standards are too high, but in the world Cohen has created, it would have made a ton more sense.

Supporting actors are serviceable, such as Nelson and Larson, each showing up just enough to establish their characters, with the totally hot Larson getting the better of it. McKay and team do give Ferrell and Hart some of Larson's treatment, letting Darrell project the aura of being a hard gangstah with a pretty funny monologue over dinner. But that's about it: this is merely an excuse for the duo to show off they must have thought was a hilarious shoot at the time, barely straying from their pre-assigned roles as either dorky white guy or maniac little black man. This will play well to the hardcore audiences both have built, but it won't re-establish either as household names among those who know better.

Get Hard is not so much a wasted opportunity as it is more of the same from these leads. And while I found myself laughing at points, it's a formula that's ultimately boring and might not play well as the weekend crowds descend. Instead of crafting a uniquely funny madcap comedy from two of the best in the business, this one feels like a wasted opportunity to pull the lowest hanging offensive fruit possible. When viewed through those eyes, Get Hard is a complete failure.

Get Hard is Rated R for...well...everything and has runtime of 100 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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