‘Get Hard’ is Less Than the Sum of Its Parts

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CHICAGO – Will Ferrell is a funny guy. Kevin Hart can be a funny guy. But the prison buddy comedy “Get Hard” is woefully less than the sum of its comedic parts. It fires buckshot of lame jokes at its audience, but precious few come anywhere near their targets as it squanders nearly every comic opportunity that comes its way.

Ferrell stars as a wealthy hedge fund manager with a gold-digging fiancée (Alison Brie) and a house full of servants who can barely conceal their disdain for him. His life begins to crumble when he’s accused of fraud and embezzlement, and arrested at his own birthday party. No one is asking for “The Verdict” in a Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart comedy, but even by the lackadaisical standards of a studio comedy, Ferrell is convicted and sentenced to 10 years hard labor in San Quentin based on alarmingly little evidence, and with little or no provocation.

Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart in ‘Get Hard’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Facing a long prison sentence, Ferrell hires Hart's Darnell to get him ready for life on the inside. Hart is the middle class owner of a car wash, but Ferrell assumes that because he’s black he must have gone to prison. Ha ha. Hart agrees to the deal because he needs the money to buy a new house in a better neighborhood so he can get his daughter into a new school. So he goes about reinforcing this wealthy white man’s prejudices by embodying every negative stereotype he’s ever seen.

This is a racially dicey proposition that carries big, big risks, but could yield huge rewards if played with just the right finesse. Unfortunately “Get Hard” doesn’t have any use for finesse when a scattershot array of dick jokes will do.

It eventually goes all in and Hart takes Ferrell to a gay brunch to teach him how learn how suck a man’s penis so he can survive prison. But even then, the film doesn’t have the courage to come up with a payoff for its own setup. Even when it goes for the low hanging fruit, its approach and results are just rote and tiresome.

Working it Out in ‘Get Hard’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

That’s not to say the film is completely without laughs. Ferrell manages to wring a few chuckles, but it’s more because of his line readings and inflections than anything actually on the page – and Chicago improv legend T. J. Jagodowski has a small but amusing role.

“Get Hard” is more about missed opportunities. It never maximizes the physical slapstick comedy of Ferrell the gentle giant, and Hart the hyperactive motor mouth in a tiny body. There are a lot of talented people on-screen, but getting laughs is one task that’s just too hard for “Get Hard.”

“Get Hard” opens everywhere on March 27th. Featuring Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Craig T. Nelson, Alison Brie, Greg Germann, Matt Walsh and T.J. Jagodowski. Screenplay by Etan Cohen, Jay Martel and Ian Roberts. Directed by Etan Cohen. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com contributor Spike Walters


© 2015 Spike Walters, HollywoodChicago.com

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