Hard to Take, by Rudie Obias
Do you like racist jokes? Do you like gay jokes? Well, friend, I have the movie for you! In the tradition of comedies like Trading Places, Get Hard places its characters in a different perspective and worldview that’s not their own. But imagine watching the first draft of a screenplay unfold for you on the big screen and you’ll have Get Hard. It’s stars Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart doing a lot to elevate the material but with a movie that seems to have a lot on its mind, it’s certainly dumb, albeit with a handful of laughs.
Get Hard follows James King (Will Ferrell), a wealthy investment banker who gets arrested for fraud to the tune of millions and millions of dollars. Instead of sending King to a white-collar minimum security prison, he gets sentenced to hard time in a maximum security one for 10 years. The judge wants to make an example out of him and white-collar criminals across the country. Of course, this is probably the biggest logic stretch the movie asks of its viewers because rich white people never go to jail for that long. But I’m willing to suspend my disbelief. King has 30 days to get his affairs in order before he has to actually go to jail. Instead of investigating why he went to jail, King believes he’s been framed. He hires Kevin Hart’s Darnell Lewis, a car wash owner, to teach him to get through prison without getting raped because King believes Lewis went to jail, which he hasn’t. You see, James King is a racist but Will Ferrell is just so likable that no one really realizes that being racist is a bad thing.
The rest of the film is basically a 45-minute training montage of Lewis teaching King to “get hard” in prison and you can imagine with a title like that there’s going to be a lot, I mean a lot, of gay jokes peppered throughout the movie. Get Hard’s biggest crime is that it’s very by-the-numbers and boring. While there’s a bigger plot with King trying to find evidence to prove his innocence, Get Hard is more obsessed with prison rape than handling any sense of plotting or structure. Why not do both? It’s not impossible to make a comedy that serves big laughs, a story, character development, and eye-opening satire. But instead, Get Hard is content with its dick jokes and racial stereotypes.
As mentioned above, Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart are really good in the movie and I think that’s enough to watch it but it just seems that the filmmakers are asking a lot from the two actors. They need to be served in a better movie. Much of Get Hard appears improvised with Ferrell and Hart up for the challenge, as there’s some genuine on-screen chemistry and comedic timing between the two of them. It’s just that Get Hard is so dumb and painfully obvious that it’s just insulting. When the audience knows who is setting up James King and why before the characters realize it, then that’s a problem. That’s a bigger problem when the audience has that information for at least 45 minutes before it’s even addressed in the movie.
Longtime screenwriter Etan Cohen (Idiocracy, Tropic Thunder) made his directorial debut with Get Hard and it shows that it’s his first time behind the camera. Get Hard is uneven and dull, while it’s admirable that Ferrell and Hart are trying to make it interesting and funny. You just wouldn’t think a big comedy starring Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart would be such a slog to get through, but, man, Get Hard needs to get tighter with its storytelling before it can handle any conversation about race and prison life in America.