Let’s establish something right off the bat because, you know, time is money and everyone is busy. Do you REALLY like Will Ferrell and/or Kevin Hart??? If you answered ‘Yes’ to that question – read on precious viewer. If you answered ‘Meh’ or ‘I’d rather stick needles in my eyeballs,’ you can stop right here. GET HARD has a very funny, and somewhat timely premise with its story of a hedge fund manager (Will Ferrell) stealing hundreds of millions, getting sentenced to 10 years in prison and needing an ex-con (Kevin Hart) to help him ‘get hard’ for prison. The fact that Ferrell’s character James King is innocent and that Hart’s Darnell never even got a speeding ticket is predictable but also serves for a funny riff on the film BOYZ N THE HOOD. What the film does best however, and I suspect is its entire raison d’être, is showcase the chemistry between its two stars and dish out some incisive stinging one liners about our endemic racial beliefs, assumptions and why trickle down economics doesn’t work.
Will Ferrell has always been adept and especially funny when he mocks his own physicality. He is all to aware that he is no Chris Hemsworth and when he uses his body in comedy it makes us laugh despite ourselves. In GET HARD’s first few minutes he uses that skill to its fullest and while we fear it sets the tone for the entire film, I am relieved to say, it doesn’t. His oblivious ostentatious display of his naked physique, literally, in the face of his mansion’s employees is a good way to exemplify the utter obliviousness the 1% shows to the rest of us in the ‘real’ world. It is a good visual metaphor which I fear much of the audience will not get, laughing only at the ridiculousness of the scene. Ferrell and his creative spouse Adam McKay crafted some searing commentary in this film which is delivered in fleeting sight gags and one-liners all too easy to miss. There is powerful economic commentary in this movie but it’s hard to catch in the seams between the Ferrell/Hart pas de deux which, like giant gaudy fake pearls strung on a thread, make a necklace. While the necklace as a whole may have its own kind of beauty you get stuck gawking at the big gaudy pearls.
Despite a general unevenness in the film and feeling that it’s a string of just a bit too long Saturday Night Live skits, there are a few scenes which are riotously funny. The fact that the regularly maltreated house staff become Ferrell’s ‘jailers’ in the faux prison that was his mansion is hilarious in theory and practice. Ferrell’s bewilderment at the delight his former housekeeper Rosa takes in putting him in “the hole” is hilarious and the staged prison riot is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Craig T. Nelson is always a welcome sight and plays his ‘Hedge Fund Master of the Universe’ role with believably cool, collected amoral aplomb. Alison Brie, who plays his Nelson’s daughter and Ferrell’s bride to be, fills the role just fine but it’s thankless and hard to mess up as long as you look good in lingerie. The best supporting roles are those of the house staff, particularly Erick Chavarria and Rosa’s Katia Gomez. Also key are members of the gang Ferrell considers joining, namely the hip-hop artist T.I., Ron Funches and Joshua Joseph Gillum who have banter about financial products that I am still laughing over.
Without diverging into a serious philosophical discussion about race and socioeconomics, it bears mentioning that the film could be seen as racist, and discriminatory to homosexuals. I hold the opinion that one good way to break through our rigid and misguided prejudicial beliefs is to mock ourselves and each other ruthlessly. In the spirit of Charlie Hebdo, and satire in general, if nothing is sacred then we are all even. I found the humor in GET HARD to be ruthless to all involved. I wish that I could say that makes the movie better or more worthwhile than it is, or that the key scenes add up to a greater whole. I cannot. There are laughs, but too intermittent, and the story is just a bit too predicable. That being said, I still crack up every time I see Will Ferrell’s chest hair afro.
Director: Etan Cohen
Cast:Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Craig T. Nelson, Alison Brie, T.I., Greg Germann, Erick Chavarria
Running Time: 100 minutes
Get Hard movie review