Get Hard. 2015. Directed by Etan Cohen. Written by Jay Martel, Ian Roberts, & Etan Cohen from a story by Adam McKay, Jay Martel, & Ian Roberts. Starring Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Craig T. Nelson, Alison Brie, Edwina Findley Dickerson, Ariana Neal, Erick Chavarria, Paul Ben-Victor, and featuring T.I.
Rated R. 100 minutes.
To start – I fall in the category of people who grew up in the 1990s watching Will Ferrell for the first time via Saturday Night Live, such sketches as Dogshow and The Lovers with him and Rachel Dratch as Roger/Virginia Clavin just a couple of my all-time favourites. So I really do love Ferrell. However, in recent years with so many of the same formulaic comedies coming out after the success of Ricky Bobby’s dumb ass charm (see: Blades of Glory and The Campaign and yes I’ll say it Anchorman because it isn’t as funny as people want it to be and The Other Guys and Semi-Pro), I can definitely say I’m growing tired of a lot of his movies.
That being said, there are his great years on SNL as one of the people during that era who carried the show, in my opinion, aside from the writers themselves. There’s also the outrageously funny Step Brothers which proves how well he and John C. Reilly work together with the right comedic material; two masters at work. His cameo in Wedding Crashers is a thing of legend. Even in the mediocre-to-lame Starsky & Hutch update, Ferrell is on his game as the wildly weird Big Earl.
Now, finally, there is Get Hard. Not only is Ferrell pretty great here, but the pairing of him and Kevin Hart makes for some hilarious bits that I enjoyed. The movie also changed my mind on Hart, who I wasn’t exactly sold on beforehand.
Get Hard starts with millionaire James King (Will Ferrell) getting arrested on charges of fraud and embezzlement, his sentence ending up at 10 years to be served in the notoriously hard San Quentin Prison. Enter Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart), a mild-mannered nice guy, a family man, who runs a a car cleaning service. Because Darnell is a black man, King assumes he has been to jail and offers him money to help get him ready to head to the Big House. Instead of being offended, which by all rights he should be, Darnell decides to take King up on the offer – all in order to help get his family out of a bad neighbourhood and somewhere nicer, someplace safer. From there the relationship progresses, as Darnell pretends to have been to jail in order to get the money and maybe prepare King a little for jail.
What I really like is that they played both sides of things – it’s obviously racist for Ferrell’s character to assume that the black man has been to prison, and that’s clearly why he is running a car cleaning service, yet Hart’s character takes advantage of that, and so he’s playing into a stereotype simply to gain money. This is where some people need to take a long look at the movie to realise this is a movie that knows what it is doing. I’m not saying the whole thing is high-brow, not in the slightest, what I am saying is that the movie plays very keenly with the fact that it’s tiptoeing over a lot of racial lines. That’s the whole point, and I don’t think a lot of people who are reviewing this film saying “it’s racist”, “it’s homophobic” are really understanding that the movie knows where it is treading, and is purposely doing so. At least that’s how I understand things.
Plus, it works. I mean, when Darnell finally just decides it’s time for James to “learn to suck a dick” and takes him to a restaurant that’s well-known for gay male hookups, I thought it was absolute hilarity! First, you get to see Ferrell try and talk himself into giving a blowjob to a man (none other than the hilarious Matt Walsh from Old School and other films with Ferrell among much more), prosthetic penis and all. Then, what really makes it all work, is when a gay man mistakes Darnell for someone looking lonely and needing company – this leads to more funny moments. Later in the film while Ferrell is trying to make friends at a clubhouse of a white gang, Darnell waits outside in his truck where he talks on the phone to the gay man who semi-propositioned him at the restaurant; they’re friends who talk about relationships now, and the man tells Darnell he’s “the boyfriend I never had.” It’s so funny, and after that especially if people say the movie has some sort of homophobia in it they are sorely mistaken. Great, great stuff.
One of the best gags for me in the whole film is the running Boyz n the Hood joke that starts when Darnell is put on the spot by his wife to tell the story of how he got put in jail, and Darnell in turn gives James a faked explanation torn right from the script of the famous Cuba Gooding Jr/Ice Cube-starring movie. It’s just way too funny. I love the fact it plays on how a lot of white people like the James King character probably wouldn’t know what they’d most likely call a “black movie” like Boyz n the Hood. In reality, it’s just an incredibly poignant film, and everyone should see it if they’ve not already. It gets even better when James brings the story up after Darnell takes him to see Russell (played by T.I.), and everyone gets a nice kick out of the fact James has no idea what he’s said. Certainly if you haven’t seen the movie you’ll never really get the joke as much as it’s meant to be taken, but regardless, it’s still a laugh. For those who’ve seen it, the moment Darnell says the names Doughboy and Ricky you’ll probably find yourself chuckling.
Overall, I loved this movie. Maybe it isn’t everyone else’s cup of tea, and that’s fine. I thought Ferrell and Hart together were an excellent team. Some of the gags didn’t work, but most of them did. I’d like to see these guys do another movie again someday, not right away to capitalise off this but down the road. Definitely a 4 out of 5 star comedy. They toed the racial lines, and some of the homosexual ones as well, and I don’t think they went for any kind of shock value solely for the sake of shocking; everything worked to their respective ends the way they were meant and without straying into blatant offensiveness/lacking the comedic punch. The black-white dynamic ultimately worked so well because both Ferrell and Hart are good comedians, but also the writing didn’t fall into complete laziness using quasi and full-on racist gags to get laughs. A lot of excellent jokes were at the butt of James King, the clueless white man trying to initiate himself into both black and jail culture while being exactly that: beyond clueless.
In the end, I think Get Hard is one of the smarter Will Ferrell comedies in awhile, which is great because I love his work. I believe it had something to do with Kevin Hart – I wasn’t a fan until recently, between this and the Comedy Central Roast he hosted for Justin Bieber – now I think he’s got great talent. Hopefully Ferrell might make some more hilarious movies along this line because I genuinely think this had some brains, even if it did meander at times. Highly recommended, and I may watch it again in the near future for a nice laugh.