If you read the words “American comedy,” what springs to mind?
If “stupid,” “tasteless” and “juvenile” crop up, you’re definitely in the right ballpark.
I’ll go with dumb and even dumber for the new comedy Get Hard in which Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart strain to deliver as many jokes about homosexual rape as an “R” rating can abide.
For 27 years, Robert Denerstein was the film critic at The Rocky Mountain News. Read more of Robert's reviews at Denerstein Unleashed.
Get Hard — a movie that seems to be built around little more than stereotypical thinking and commercial calculation — relies on the fact that Ferrell is so insistently goofy, it’s difficult to be offended by him. For his part, Hart has perfected a mixture of agitation and likability.
Together, Ferrell and Hart do their best to sell a comedy that’s long on repetitive gags and short on imagination. Their best isn’t enough.
Here’s the premise: Ferrell plays a rich Los Angeles hedge-fund manager who’s sentenced to 10 years in jail after being wrongly convicted of fraud.
Thinking most black males have done prison time, Ferrell’s James asks the guy who washes his car (Hart’s Darnell) to prepare him for the frightening ordeal of prison.
James doesn’t think to ask whether Darnell actually has been in prison (he hasn’t), but figures that any black man should know the ropes when it comes to incarceration. Family man Darnell goes along with James’s racist assumption because he needs $30,000 to move his wife and daughter out of South Central and into a safer neighborhood with better schools.
Once the deal is struck, James and Darnell retreat to James’s mansion where they try to simulate prison conditions as a way to ready James for the harsh realities of San Quentin, the slammer where he’s supposed to serve his time.
The movie’s obvious double entendre title should give you a clue about the kind of humor that’s on tap. It also helps to know that you’ll have seen Ferrell’s bare butt twice before the opening credits have finished.
The supporting cast is pretty much incidental. For the record, Craig T. Nelson plays James’s boss, and Alison Brie appears as the boss’s daughter, a conniving sexpot who — at least at the beginning of the movie — is engaged to James.
Some of the early reviews of Get Hard have talked about the movie’s homophobia. There’s even a men’s room scene in which James — pretty much a failure at turning himself into thug — is told that the only option he has left is to learn how to fellate tougher convicts, voluntarily becoming the “bitch” they want him to be.
Comedies that try to push the envelope when it comes to bits that are bound to offend the unwary can earn a modicum of forgiveness by being funny. This one, not so much.
When it finally dawns on Darnell and James that James never will transform into a hard case, they devote their time to wrapping up the movie’s poor excuse of a plot by trying to prove that James doesn’t have to do the time because he didn’t do the crime.
Director Etan Cohen, who wrote Tropic Thunder and Men in Black 3, gleefully packages the movie’s bad taste, stereotypes and endless jokes about prison rape. But as Hollywood comedies go, Get Hard feels like it’s mining material that long since has been tapped out or possibly even run out of town: It’s more of the same, only maybe even less clever.