Starring: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Craig T. Nelson, Alison Brie, Edwina Findley Dickerson, Ariana Neal
Rated R for Pervasive Crude and Sexual Content and Language, Some Graphic Nudity and Drug Material
I am not a Will Ferrell hater. Used correctly, he can be hilarious. Left to his own devices or in the hands of someone who thinks him simply standing in front of the camera will send the audience into paroxysms of laughter (I'm talking to you, Adam McKay!), watching him on-screen is nothing short of agony. "Get Hard" is a little of both. There are far too many jokes that fall flat because Ferrell is trying too hard, but there are also some hilarious bits.
James King (Ferrell) is a high powered business executive with more money than God. He's engaged to Alissa (Brie), the vapid daughter of his boss, Martin (Nelson). At their engagement party, he is arrested for corporate crimes. But he is in fact innocent, and under the mistaken belief that justice will prevail, he declines to take a plea bargain and is sentenced to 10 years hard time. Unfortunately for him, he's not going to Club Fed; he's going to San Quentin. Realizing that he won't make it one day in that hell hole, he turns to Darnell Lewis (Hart), who takes care of the cars at the office. Because he's black, James assumes that he's been in the prison system. This is not the case, but Darnell needs 30 grand to send his daughter to a private school instead of a dangerous public one. So in exchange for the tuition money, Darnell will play the part.
On the whole, "Get Hard" is not a very good movie. I did more eye-rolling than laughing, and when a grin formed on my face, I was ashamed. The jokes were usually too dumb or simply crude to get a laugh. I was glad that I saw it in a crowded theater; with a less energetic crowd, I'm sure this would have been as painful as "This is the End" or "Neighbors."
Will Ferrell knows how to get a laugh. He proved that in "Elf" and "Old School." But that implies that he has good material. When he doesn't, he seems to realize it because he resorts to over-dramatizing it or shouting it. Perhaps it's an attempt to breathe life into it. It doesn't work and reeks of desperation. His incessant malapropisms aren't funny either. But when he does have something to work with, which he occasionally does, he knows what to do with it.
The first film I saw Kevin Hart in was "Soul Plane," which I detested. But he's growing on me. Ferrell's career is on life-support, and he seems tired. Hart, on the other hand, steals many scenes, and some of his reaction shots are priceless. But with such limp material, there's little that he can do. He does have a nice chemistry with Edwina Findley Dickerson and Ariana Neal, who play his wife and daughter.
"Get Hard" is too long and too dumb to be worth checking out unless you're a die hard fan of Ferrell or Hart, but at least it's not physically painful to sit through.