One would assume pairing Will Ferrell with Kevin Hart would produce a laugh riot. Not so much. As I have stated many times before in my reviews, it's all about the writing, especially in comedies.
Up until now, director Etan Cohen has been known mainly for his writing, and he did co-pen this screenplay with Jay Martel and Ian Roberts. However, the story by Martel, Roberts and Adam McKay is quite tired, with little originality. It's shocking that with this many experienced guys working on a project, not to mention the talents of Ferrell and Hart, that it isn't more entertaining than it is.
James King (Ferrell) has been sentenced to prison for fraud, but James is innocent. His soon-to-be father-in-law, Martin (Craig T. Nelson), who employs James, promises him that he will find the real culprit. In the meantime, James approaches Darnell (Hart), who washes his car daily, to help him prepare for prison.
James mistakenly thinks Darnell has been to prison, because he's African-American, even though he's never even had a parking ticket. But Darnell needs the extra cash so he, his wife, Rita ((Edwina Findley Dickerson), and their daughter Makayla (Ariana Neal) can move to a safer neighborhood.
"Get Hard" does have a few laugh-out-loud moments, and a couple of priceless scenes. One has Darnell playing out a prison yard scenario that's pretty hilarious. But, as with most comedies lately, it has more than its share of cringe-inducing shots, like Ferrell's naked buttocks shown from behind, while his Hispanic gardener is in full view.
It's frustrating to watch Ferrell and Hart and realize "Get Hard" could have been so much funnier with a better script. But, as it stands, it's simply a paycheck for both.
Opinion: Wait for DVD
Kevin Hart is a relatively new hot commodity in comedy. Will Ferrell has been around for a long time. The pairing of the two actors in "Get Hard" is a hit-and-miss affair, although they do work well together, and make their comic exchanges look easy.
The first half of the film is better than the second. James King (Ferrell) parades around as an uber-wealthy executive in a company run by his future father-in-law, Martin (Craig T. Nelson). James' gold-digger fiancee, Alissa (Alison Brie), is a material girl sporting a mega-diamond ring, who likes sex atop her blueprints for a huge house, even larger than James' current mansion.
Life is good until James is arrested at a party celebrating their upcoming nuptials. Here John Mayer has a cameo as the smug talent for the party, and the look on his face when James interrupts his solo is priceless.
Meanwhile, James is accused of white collar crimes like tax fraud and insider trading, but naturally proclaims his innocence. Rather than accept a plea deal for a one-year prison term, he chooses to go to trial. Long story short, he's convicted and sentenced to 10 years, and his stretch begins in 30 days.
Darnell (Hart) owns a small car wash company in the basement of the building where James works. The rest of the film has Darnell training James in the ways of prison life in exchange for the $30K Darnell needs to purchase a new home for his wife, Rita (Edwina Findley Dickerson) and their precocious little girl, Makayla (Ariana Neal). Because Darnell is black, James assumes he has spent time in jail --- he has not. Other stereotypes in this implausible script include an African-American street gang of neighborhood toughs, and a white supremacist group of bikers --- neither of which is original. It is amusing when James shows the black gang bangers on a laptop how to invest their drug money.
Ferrell is at his funniest when he challenges lean-and-mean strangers to fight, insulting their manhood and their mothers --- all in the name of "getting hard". The double entendre of the film's title is played up too many times --- we get it.
When Darnell tells James he needs to practice fellatio on someone to really be prepared for prison life, it's one of the few amusing moments in the film. As they're sitting in an outside patio of a gay hangout, the camera shifts to a tall man making obscene gestures with an olive in his mouth. Next, James is on his knees in a bathroom stall --- his feet protruding beyond the door --- while the man stands unzipped, including a brief glimpse of his manhood. James is attempting to perform the act, but just can't bring himself to do it. While this is going on, Darnell is hit on by a gay man, Chris (T. J. Jagodowski from the Sonic TV commercials). It's a humorous episode, as well.
But "Get Hard" is a comedy that's all over the board, and the thin material by a gaggle of writers does not sustain the laughs. Perhaps there's too much emphasis on James hiding homemade shivs "where the sun don't shine". And of course, Ferrell has never been shy of showing his heinie on screen, which he does frequently here. The exasperated reactions of the house staff make these scenes tolerable.
Inevitably, Darnell suggests that James find out who set him up, so when the boys learn that Martin is not who he appears to be, the movie degenerates into a hum-drum affair. Hopefully these two stars will make more films together with writing that actually complements their talent.
Ironically, the best part of our screening was the trailer for a new comedy starring Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara. It looks hilarious.
Opinion: Mild Wait For DVD