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Film Review: Get Hard

Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell in Get Hard (Image  ©  Warner Bros.) 

Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell in Get Hard (Image © Warner Bros.) 

I like Will Ferrell, but not like most people seem to like him. I enjoy it when he stretches his acting chops and does something like Everything Must Go. I feel the same way about Adam Sandler, but at least Ferrell doesn't do three Jack and Jills for every Punch-Drunk Love.

That being said, Ferrell plays up his usual lovable doofus shtick in Get Hard, an R-rated comedy built entirely around stereotypes.

Ferrell is James, a millionaire stockbroker who has it all. He's got a job he loves, an amazing house chock-full of servants and a gorgeous fiance in Alissa (Alison Brie). To top it all off his father-in-law Martin (Craig T. Nelson) is also his boss and is about to make him a partner in the business.

This being a comedy things go bad fast as James is accused of shady business deals and charged with screwing over/stealing from clients. Unfortunately, James is also an idiot who believes his innocence will see him through. Instead of taking a one year plea deal he ends up sentenced to ten years of hard labor in San Quentin.

This is where the plot kicks in. Darnell (Kevin Hart) is literally the only black man James ever comes in contact with so he asks Darnell to help him learn how to survive prison (like I mentioned before, James is an idiot. Basically Ferrell plays him like most every other character he's ever played.) Despite Darnell being one of the cleanest, most law-abiding citizens ever, he agrees to help in return for $30,000. 

What follows is scene after scene of Darnell trying to make James a tough guy. He tries to teach James how to work out in the yard, fight and take a hit and deal with prison politics. Naturally nothing works so they get more and more desperate (you will learn what keistering is).

A lot of the humor is based around James's lack of knowledge of anything other than rich white people and his assumptions about how other races and classes function. Darnell in return plays up the humor of being a clean-cut guy trying to be a hardened criminal. Lest you think only rich white guys and black people stereotypes are used for laughs, they also take digs at gays and racists. Really the only people shown respect are the Hispanic servants, who finally get a chance to mess with James after years of being treated as if they barely exist. 

It's hard to quantify this sort of film. Unlike the unintentional racism of films like Rush Hour, Get Hard knows exactly what it's doing and tries its best to play everything for a laugh. Surprisingly, much of it works and that's purely to the credit of the cast. Everyone is happy to make a fool of themselves and you can almost imagine them saying "no hard feelings, right?" after every take. 

The film has copious swearing and nudity and does its best to earn the R rating and I actually appreciate that. A film with such a ridiculous premise cannot be watered down to PG-13. It's definitely not for everyone, but I don't regret seeing it. At least I now know how to keister.