Review: Ferrell & Hart Only Reach Half-Mast in Forgettable 'Get Hard'
by Jeremy Kirk
March 27, 2015
The first thing we see, the first thing we hear, in Get Hard, the new comedy vehicle for Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, is Ferrell himself crying uncontrollably into the camera, more screams coming from him than actual tears. It’s a good, and early, indication of where the comedy in Get Hard lies. The comedic co-leads combine their greatest hits for the film, Hart’s size and stature coming up a time or two in humorous conversation and Ferrell, well, being Will Ferrell. The schtick may be wearing thin, but the two certainly know how to get the laugh-track going. It may never rise to the heights of Ferrell’s better, earlier efforts, and Hart has definitely accomplished more with less. Though the film never finds its way to full-blown belly laughs, Get Hard definitely knows how to make an audience keep chuckling consistently. More below!
The reason Ferrell’s character, wealthy investment banker and all-around waspy, rich guy James King, is weeping so is due to the fact that he’s just been found guilty of fraud. He’s given 30 days to get his affairs in order, which includes preparing himself for the ten years in San Quentin he’s facing. Enter Hart’s Darnell Lewis, a family man who’s struggling to get his car wash business off the ground. Noticing Darnell’s skin color, James instantly assumes he’s previously served time. A crash course in penitentiary preparedness ensues complete with macing of the face, learning how to handle yourself in the yard, and James gearing himself up for the prison rape Darnell’s assures him is inevitable. A lot of rape jokes.
With that premise and these actors involved, it isn’t difficult to map out the structure the comedy in Get Hard is going to take. First you have the Ferrell-being-weak bit followed by the Hart-being-dominant gag. Then you follow that – or, more appropriately, season the whole thing – with jokes about dicks, asses, or whatever visually graphic imagery first-time feature film director Etan Cohen can muster up to remind you of, you guessed it, rape. If the double entendre of the title is lost on you, worry not. Ferrell does a fine job of driving the point home to an aggressive and annoying degree late in the film, but the ferocity with which Get Hard drops its comedy is less chafing than the subject matter of some of that humor.
There’s a fine line that has to be taken when dealing with comedy revolving around any kind of dark subject matter. Unless the film can be easily recognized as a “black comedy” where all bets are off, it’s difficult to yuck it up about prison rape or violent criminals or even out-and-out racism. Get Hard doesn’t seem to be aware of that fine line, its topics for comedy running the bad taste gamut and, more often than not, coming off much shallower than it should be. Ferrell isn’t the only one cringing during a scene wherein Hart tries to goad his co-star into using…that word. You know what word.
Prerequisite and generally 101 class humor aside, Ferrell and Hart do what they can to inject as much genuine emotion in when it’s necessary. It’s a foregone conclusion that they’re each going to be bringing their own, respective brands to the comedy side of Get Hard, but it’s the honest to goodness story and character development that makes any Hollywood comedy truly memorable. In a nutshell, Hart is at that level with the drama here, his humor fluidly sliding into a scene. Let's just say you'll want to see him in some strange Boyz n the Hood remake where he's playing all the parts. It'll be glorious.
Ferrell, on the other hand, is simply trapped by the comedy. His more dramatic scenes are against the likes of Alison Brie, playing it a bit too cute as James’ materialistic trophy wife, and Craig T. Nelson as James' wealthy and possibly, some might call it obvious, villain-of-the-film father-in-law. Try as he might, and God knows he does try, Ferrell can’t transcend his hysterical faces and side-splitting mannerisms to ever be taken seriously. Well, not ever. He’ll still have those Stranger Than Fiction roles here and there, but when it comes to comedy, that’s exactly the sandbox in which the Anchorman likes to play.
What is definite is how much more shallow, and ultimately one-note, Get Hard comes across than the earlier output of Gary Sanchez Productions, Ferrell and longtime producing collaborator Adam McKay’s production company. Films like The Foot Fist Way and Step Brothers pushed the envelope in their respective ways, but it all served a deeper purpose. The drama feeds the comedy and vice versa. With Get Hard, though, the comedy only serves itself, simple and transparent jokes bumbling through something of a forgettable and predictable story while the drama gets jumbled up somewhere in the mix. It’s a mess, one that keeps you yucking through your breath just consistently enough to ever be boring. However, when the high point(s) consist of antics from John Mayer, it’s
hard difficult calling it a successful comedy.