Get Hard is a shining example of a finished product not being greater than the sum of its parts. The idea of bringing together two comedic heavyweights isn’t bad – and indeed, Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart have some pretty solid chemistry – but even these veteran funnymen struggle to squeeze laughs out of this one-note script.
James King (Ferrell) is a wealthy hedge fund manager, the kind of white collar asshole that most working class Americans would hate on sight. Darnell Lewis (Hart) runs a car washing business out of the parking garage of the building James works in, and dreams of making enough money to move his family to a better neighborhood. James carries enough cash around to choke a farm animal, yet he offers Darnell a two-dollar tip with an admonishment to work hard in order to succeed. Nice guy, that one.
When James is convicted of securities fraud and sentenced to 10 years in San Quentin (as if that were even remotely plausible in any reality), he enlists Darnell’s help to prepare him for life behind bars – because Darnell is black, of course, which means he must have gone to prison at some point in his life. Right? Not exactly – while Darnell does have a gangbanger cousin (hip-hop artist T.I.) from Crenshaw, Darnell himself has never been in trouble with the law.
But that doesn’t stop him from taking full advantage of the situation, and the audience gets to live vicariously through Darnell as he puts James through all manner of terrible scenarios, including turning his mansion into a makeshift jailhouse and simulating a prison riot. Many of these moments are admittedly funny, but they’re practically drowning in a seemingly endless parade of homophobia and racial stereotypes. There’s a particular sequence in the second act featuring a gay restaurant and a trip to a bathroom stall that’s not only painfully unfunny, it’s also offensive.
Ferrell and Hart deserve all the credit in the world for trying to create genuine enjoyment out of this mostly mirthless script, but there are only so many ways you can tell the same joke before if gets stale – and Get Hard continues well past that point. The film tries to say something poignant about social and economic inequality, but it’s difficult to hear the message over the cacophany of dick jokes and worn out stereotypes. There are a handful of laughs to be found amid all the garbage, but this is a massive step down for comedians of this caliber, and you can never quite shake the feeling that both men are far better than this.