Will Ferrell has never been my cup of tea. This has nothing to do with his noxious left-wing politics. It’s that his screen presence is one of the most unlikable I’ve ever come across. Vulgarity for the sake of vulgarity, cowardly comedy that never provokes left-wing sensibilities, and most of all a coldness shielded by a detached-irony nothing ever penetrates.
“Get Hard” is no classic. The R-rated buddy comedy does, though, show that finally, at age 47, Ferrell is evolving.
After being framed, millionaire financial genius James King (Ferrell) is sentenced to 10 years in a maximum security prison and has 30 days to get his affairs in order. Terrified at the thought of becoming somebody’s prison bitch, King hires Darnell (Kevin Hart) — the man who washes his car and the only black person he knows — to teach him how to handle himself in prison.
King is a racist who just assumes Darnell has been in prison. Eager for the $30,000 payday that will get his family out of out of Crenshaw, Darnell is happy to play along.
What follows isn’t so much a movie but a series of skits wrapped around the central premise of a soft, bubbled, rich white guy trying to get ready for prison life: Darnell fixes King’s Bel-Air mansion up to look like a prison; Darnell gives King a taste of yard life on his tennis court; Darnell uses a strobe light and the servants to ready King for a prison riot; and finally, Darnell decides King’s hopeless and can only survive in the joint if he’s willing to cop one.
This resulted in the only joke that made me laugh hard during “Get Hard”:
Darnell: You have to make dick-aid out of dick.
King: Dick-aid does not sound like a significant improvement over dick.
“Get Hard” is never dull and you have to appreciate its willingness to further embitter the increasingly-censorious Left by poking fun at gays, blacks, and Hispanics — groups the Left believes should be inoculated from satire. Unfortunately, the comedy isn’t inspired. If you’ve seen the underrated “Malibu’s Most Wanted,” you’ve pretty much seen a less vulgar and funnier version of “Get Hard” — right down to the black guy not being the street thug he appears to be.
Comparing “Get Hard” to 1983’s “Trading Places” is like comparing “Jaws 2″ to Jaws.” Both films cover the same territory, and that’s where the comparison ends. Thirty-two years on, “Trading Places” has assumed its rightful place as a legitimate comedy classic. This is primarily due to an intelligent script, brilliant casting throughout, an effortlessly plotted story, and a movie that looks like a movie.
“Get Hard” not only looks cheap and flat, the story is dumb. The subplot involving King’s attempt to clear his name is insultingly lazy. For all those reasons, including the undeniable fact it is diverting and entertaining, “Get Hard” will definitely play better on television.
The most surprising revelation of the 99 minutes was that I felt actual empathy for Ferrell’s character. James King is the first Ferrell character I have not hated. After a decade of sterile irony, I just assumed Ferrell didn’t have the chops to make you feel anything but uncomfortable; that he intentionally kept the audience at an emotional distance to cover a major shortcoming. Hopefully we’ll see more of this Will Ferrell.
As far as the Left-wing attacks against the film as homophobic, racist, and all that… What a load of bunk.
If we are now defining homophobia down to a straight man being repulsed by the idea of physical intimacy with another man, put me in a GLAAD re-education camp pronto. “Get Hard” isn’t mocking homosexuality, it is grinding out crude jokes based on a straight man’s fear of forced-homosexuality, which is also known as rape.
Fearing rape is now homophobia? A heterosexual repulsed by gay sex is now homophobia? Gay panic when faced with gay rape is now homophobia?
“Get Hard” has also been accused of joking about rape when the exact opposite is true. Rape is portrayed as a horrifying wrong.
Yes, black culture, specifically gang culture, is satirized. So is rich white culture. So is white supremacy. So is racism. Most surprising, so is the Occupy Wall Street mob mentality that, in this case, results in a terrible injustice against a rich white guy.
The sin in “Get Hard” is not being black or gay. The sin is racism, rape and greed.
The fact that the Left has a problem with this only reveals them as the fascist Church Lady prudes we always knew they were.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC