The Sterling Standard in Movie Reviews 

Follow Us On:



Hardly Worth Getting

Warner Brothers
 100 Minutes
Rated: R
Directed by: Etan Cohen
Starring: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart
Get Hard

Sometimes, critical appreciation for a movie increases over time when audiences realize how later films tackle the same subject matter and fail miserably. When first released, Trading Places, the Dan Aykroyd-Eddie Murphy comedy that captured the essence of Reagan-era high finance, was well regarded but not hailed as a classic. However, when compared to Get Hard, the post-recession take on pretty much the same subject with Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart in the lead roles, Trading Places seems like the height of comic genius.


Like Dan Aykroyd’s character in Trading Places, James King (Farrell) is an up-and-coming investment banker who’s knocking on the door of the 1%. He’s got a mansion loaded with goodies and a suitably hot fiancée (Allison Brie) loaded with other types of goodies. And she just happens to be the daughter of James’s boss Martin (Craig T. Nelson), who is about to name James a partner in the firm. Then, the roof falls in. James loses it all in an instant when he is convicted of white-collar fraud that results in losing the life savings of thousands of investors . Further, the no-nonsense judge sentences James to ten years in San Quentin and gives him 30 days to get his affairs in order.


Naturally, James imagines the worst, that he’s going to be repeatedly raped in prison by multitudes of black men. In desperation, he turns to the only black man he knows (sort of), Darnell Lewis (Hart), the manager of the carwash located in the parking garage in James’s office building. James assumes Darnell is an ex-con (statistics don’t lie), so he hires Darnell to toughen him up enough so that he can survive ten years in the joint.


One of the many problems in this scenario is that Darnell isn’t an ex-con; he’s a struggling entrepreneur. But he needs the money for a down payment for the house he wants in order that his daughter can attend the right school. So, he asks his cousin Russell (Tip “T.I.” Harris), a real ex-con, for advice, and the training begins.


James’s training includes turning his mansion into a fake prison to allow Darnell to engage him in various role playing simulations, one of which involves strobe lights and a baboon (to suggest the chaos of prison). It also involves field trips: to a gay bar (to learn about gay sex up close and personal), to Russell’s house (to learn about black gangs) and to a white supremacist bar (to learn about the other side of the coin in prison). And, as James gradually does become a bit tougher and more worldly wise (not too difficult considering that he originally could have been the model for the Pillsbury Doughboy), Darnell also realizes that James was innocent all along and has a fair degree of smarts.


 Although Get Hard covers much the same ground as Trading Places did a generation earlier, it is nowhere near as well written a movie. Get Hard’s script has four listed writing credits, and it bears the mark of being reworked numerous times. As a result, there are some comic gems, especially jokes based on social and class differences. James King is portrayed as a cross between Cam Brady and Buddy the Elf. He takes the material aspects of his life for granted and innocently parrots platitudes about how to become a success and racially stereotyped comments. His disconnect with the real world makes much of the first part of the movie quite funny.


Unfortunately, from the moment that James is sentenced to prison, Get Hard devolves rather quickly. Instead of providing social commentary, the movie proceeds on the premise that the worst thing in the world that can happen to a man is to have forced gay sex with black men. And, in so doing, it reinforces virtually every gay stereotype known in as graphic a fashion as possible.


Further, Get Hard follows the unwritten “rule” of sex comedies that if telling a crude joke is funny once, telling the exact same joke dozens of time must be hilarious. So, every comic bit, especially those involving four letter words, is repeated ad infinitum. A perfect example of this alleged humor is a scene in which Darnell alternately mimics a black and a Hispanic prison gang leader, each threatening James in turn.


Get Hard makes its “concerned liberal” viewpoint obvious so, at heart, all the ethnic characters are nice people, even the gang members, and the only really nasty people are the white collar crooks and the neo-Nazis James encounters during the midst of his research. A scene in which James confronts the latter in their hangout allows Kevin Hart to channel another classic Eddie Murphy movie, 48 Hours. Tellingly, this time around, when he walks into the Aryan bar, he takes a flamethrower with him instead of merely his wits.


For the second movie in a role, Hart tries for a more serious character, although this time around, I think a good bit of the reason his character is played mostly straight is due to the fact that Ferrell appropriated most of the silliness for himself. Hart only gets to riff a couple of times which may be good or bad, depending on your liking for his typical brand of humor. I for one liked the idea that he played more of the straight man (and a family man at that) than the comic foil in this movie.


Get Hard is a tiring movie. It doesn’t merely have a running gag; it consists of nothing but running gags, few of which were funny the first time. When the film exhausts its store of four letter words, it has Ferrell and Hart engage the bad guys in clumsy slapstick that was stale when the Three Stooges were doing it. Like Hot Tub Time Machine 2 from a month ago, Get Hard seems destined to fade into crude comic obscurity within a couple of weeks, to be followed in theaters by something equally as crude. There’s a touch of innocence to the humor in Get Hard, sophomoric as it may be, so it sounds like a group of elementary school students shouting out obscenities they don’t understand. That may make Get Hard a little easier to get through; it doesn’t make it any more entertaining.

Read other reviews of Get Hard:


Get Hard (2015) on IMDb