Get Hard could have been another pointless Will Ferrell vehicle. It could have been another cash-in on the shtick that got Ferrell famous; another return to the well once overflowing spontaneous originality, now dried up by dollar bills and laziness. It could have been. Since his 2008 classic, Step Brothers (and I will defend the use of the word "classic"), the SNL alum has not really delivered on the live-action comedic front: Land of the Lost tanked, The Other Guys had one or two laughs total, Casa de mi Padre was one joke told over the course of a whole movie, The Campaign was shruggable at best, and Anchorman 2 was a bore outside of the first and last 15 minutes.
To paraphrase Chris Rock, Ferrell "needs a hit like a crackhead needs a hit", and this is coming from a Will Ferrell fan.
Luckily, Get Hard is not another safe bet warranting a diminished but dependable return. It's a ballsy movie released in a hyper-sensitive time. It's also damn funny, despite preposterous plot points, lowest-common-denominator humor, and a cookie-cutter story line. And if Get Hard can overcome all of that to make me laugh, it deserves kudos.
Will Ferrell plays James King, a millionaire stock trader who obnoxiously has it all-- money, cars, a mansion, and a beautiful fiancee (Alison Brie), who happens to be the boss's (Craig T. Nelson) daughter. Things are not so easy for Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart), the hard-working owner of a car wash in the parking garage of King's firm. Darnell is just making ends meet, but has aspirations to do more for his family. When James is indicted for fraud and sentenced to prison, he has 30 days to get his affairs in order. Because of a misunderstanding and a touch of ignorant racism, James enlists Darnell to help him prepare for "life on the inside", despite Darnell having never been to prison.
Many will lob hate at Get Hard for its blatant racism, homophobia, and general insensitivity. That criticism is not unwarranted, just misplaced. Get Hard derives its humor from the ignorance of its characters; it is not mean-spirited at all, just juvenile. While there were a few jokes that made me wince, I can say with confidence that the diverse audience I was a part of generally enjoyed the flick without offense. You're going to see a Will Ferrell comedy where the plot summary is inherently insensitive; if you're touchy about it, don't see it. It's that simple.
It also helps that the parts of the movie are undeniably hilarious. There are sequences that are explored to their edge with no punches pulled. Sure, they are reductive and insensitive in nature, but once again, we're critiquing an R-rated comedy starring Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart. Let's not get too nit picky.
The acting is a recipe for success. After Get Hard, Kevin Hart deserves his household-name status; the guy is not only hilarious, he flat out acts his ass off in this movie. Hart is fully invested in each scene, mining the comedy out of every line without being hammy or overtly playing for laughs. He's the moral center of the film (if there is one). Ferrell is also great foil for Hart in every way; Ferrell's well-spoken, absurd musings pitted against Hart's fast-talking improv, even their physical statures being polar opposites. There hasn't been a "fish-out-of-water" team this good since Rush Hour. Actually, perhaps Money Talks would be a more spot-on comparison.
I fully understand that I may be more lenient than others with Get Hard. Many will find it crude and insensitive. To those I say-- have you seen the title of the film? It's an adolescent double entendre! Others may say that it's formulaic and predictable; again, we're not talking about the greatest film of all time here. But if you're looking to have fun at the movies with an R-rated comedy, you can do much, much worse than Get Hard.
Get Hard opens in Philly area theaters today.