There's something incredibly weird going on with Get Hard, a film that somehow manages to be both stunningly disappointing and strangely watchable.
The watchable part is very likely due to the inherent likability of its co-stars, the always fearless Will Ferrell and the current comic wunderkind Kevin Hart. On the flip side, if you don't care for either Ferrell or Hart then there's nothing in Get Hard that will change your mind as the film itself feels surprisingly stale, predictable, formulaic, and surprisingly safe given the adventurous nature of both Ferrell and Hart.
The good news is that Ferrell and Hart have a natural chemistry that makes you wish they had a better film to show it off in. The premise is simple - Ferrell's James is a wealthy financier convicted of fraud and sentenced to prison. Armed with the knowledge that one in three black men will end up behind bars, he assumes that Darnell (Hart), the guy who washes his car, is likely to have been one of them since he's now stuck in menial labor.
Of course, we know he's wrong. Darnell actually owns the car wash and that's one of the many stereotypes that Get Hard skewers or at least attempts to skewer. Assumption in hand, James offers Darnell enough money for a house down payment in exchange for lessons on how to survive in prison.
Darnell isn't stupid.
Get Hard doesn't always work and, quite honestly, sometimes when it doesn't work it's downright offensive. This seems to especially occur in the name of racism and homophobia, though it never crosses the line so completely that you don't have some sense of where they were trying to go with everything. It's simply a little bit more offensive because it doesn't quite work.
Ferrell could play James in his sleep. To his credit, he doesn't. Hart, on the other hand, is far more toned down here than we usually see yet he's every bit as funny. The two together? They're a pretty incredible comic duo even in a remarkably average film.
First-time feature director Etan Cohen has spent more time as a writer on such projects as Tropic Thunder, television's King of the Hill, Men in Black 3, and other projects. That makes sense. Cohen clearly has a sense of the humor and satire present here, but he simply does a fairly dreadful job framing it within the structure of a feature film. One of six credited writers on the film, Cohen seems to "get" these characters but what unfolds on screen simply doesn't always work.
When it works, it's incredible. When it doesn't work? Painful.
The truth is that it's easy to see why these two agreed to work together, though it could easily be said that Ferrell is much more in need of this project than is Hart. My gut tells me that despite the film's overall mediocrity that both Ferrell and Hart fans will enjoy what's happening here and a very modest film will likely be more than a little modest of a hit.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic