Will Ferrell usually needs a partner to make his comedy work, however, not all of his previous partners have made for great comedies. Thankfully he found Kevin Hart. Get Hard has a really weak premise that basically hinges on the idea that rich white men assume all black men have been to prison. James King (Will Ferrell) is a powerful financial investor who gets in a lot of trouble for fraud. He’s supposed to marry Alissa (Alison Brie in a decidedly non-Annie role), the daughter of his boss, Martin (Craig T. Nelson), but it all falls apart when the judge throws the book at him – No more “club fed” for white collar crime. James is given one month to get his affairs in order before reporting to San Quentin for 10 years.
Terrified that he will not survive life in the big house, James seeks the aid of someone with prison experience to prepare him for what he will be enduring. Enter Darnell (Kevin Hart) who runs a car-washing business in the basement of a big investment firm. Darnell is looking for funds so he can move his family out of a bad neighborhood. James offers to give Darnell the money he needs if he’ll help James get ready for prison. The two men go through ALL of the prison stereotypes you’ve ever seen in movies and TV shows. However, the completeness with which they attempt to “train” for prison is honestly hysterical. Ferrell and Hart are smart comedians who are able to mine every inch of comedy out of the numerous prison misconceptions.
Overall, I laughed out loud in the theater several times. However, I was covering my face just as often cringing at all the uncomfortable humor on the screen. The trailer for the film does give away a few of the funniest parts, but there is actually a lot more to the story than you can tell from the previews – which I find is the mark of a good comedy. Sure there isn’t a lot in the film that’s surprising – even I could figure out what was going to happen pretty early – but watching Darnell try to pretend to be super tough and fake his way through knowing how to survive prison is worth the ticket alone. In fact, my favorite part of the film arrives when Darnell tries to convince his cousin Russell (T.I.), who has actually been to prison, to help James on the inside.
Does Get Hard spend a LOT of time dealing in stereotypes? Oh yeah. It is almost to the point where the film actually appears to be attempting to offer a legitimate satirical critique. Get Hard don’t quite hit the mark with its commentary, but I think there’s value in pointing out the racial misconceptions all at once. By poking fun at the stereotypes in different contexts, it makes it easier to discuss the issues at hand. The biggest problem I had with the film was that, towards the end, when James inevitably figures out that Darnell didn’t go to prison he’s really angry and upset. However, Darnell never really gets upset about the assumption that he’d been to prison. Nor does James realize that his preconceived notions are actually offensive. In not utilizing the moment to provide thought-provoking commentary, the film fails to rise beyond being a series of REALLY funny prison jokes.