Get Hard

Directed By: Etan Cohen

Starring: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Alison Brie, Edwina Findley, and Craig T. Nelson

Starbucks, one mighty brand in American commerce, had a rare public relations misstep recently.  The company's decision to promote their baristas as experts on race relations in the United States really backfired to say the least.  That's right.  The young guy or girl whipping up your cappuccino or frapuccino was tasked with having a meaningful exchange with you on what is perhaps the most complicated, layered social matter in American history between the time you enter the coffee shop and get your change and receipt.  I'm not terribly surprised this misguided effort went down in flames in the court of public opinion.  That being said, there are worse ways to jump into the national dialogue on race.  You need no more proof than this weekend's Get Hard.

James King (Will Ferrell) has it all.  A hotshot investor in Los Angeles, he's got the rock star job that everyone at his investment firm wants and the attention of his boss Martin Barrow (Craig T. Nelson).  On a hot streak as an investor, he's certainly living a life of financial comfort and is able to afford whatever castle in which he wishes to reside.  With his hot wife Alissa (Alison Brie), he has a gorgeous queen with whom he can build this castle.  James King has it all, until he doesn't.  While up on stage at a party playing with John Mayer one night, James suddenly finds himself in handcuffs and charged with securities fraud.  He's soon convicted and sentenced to ten years in a maximum security prison at San Quentin for crimes he completely denies committing.

Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart) isn't exactly living the high life.  With his wife Rita (Edwina Findley), he's doing the best he can to provide for their daughter.  Living in an impoverished part of the city and sending his daughter to a subpar school, he wants to do better.  To do so, Darnell's car wash business Hollywood Luxury Bubbles needs a financial boost to the tune of $30,000.  That's money he doesn't have and can't get from a bank given his credit history.  As fate would have it, James King is one of his customers.  A white guy looking to survive in prison, James sees Darnell as a stereotypical black man who's done hard time.  Wishing to pay for services to toughen him up before he's behind bars, James offers Darnell the $30,000 he needs in exchange.  Now, it's time for James to get hard.

If you're looking for a movie that plays into just about every racial stereotype known to man, go see Etan Cohen's Get Hard.  Despite the nuances and complexities of America's racial polarization, Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart tackle race-based jokes with the subtlety of a dump truck.  They just dump one ill-advised gag on us after another.  Misguided at best and reckless at worst, these two don't stop at race and jump to sexual orientation as well.  This is best illustrated by the film's title and its double meaning.  All in all, this interracial bromance just isn't working for me.

Despite the two heavyweight funny men headlining the movie, the comedy in Get Hard is uneven at best.  The first half of the film is really all about this whiny Will Ferrell getting on everyone's damn nerves.  There's nothing funny about watching a grown man cry, even if Kevin Hart reaches up to slap him around a little.  When Ferrell does find his groove as a hardened James King, it's too late.  The damage has already been done.  Then, we have Kevin Hart as Darnell Lewis.  Fresh from The Wedding Ringer, the overexposed comedian spends the duration of the movie jumping and screaming at Ferrell.  He's not exactly mining comedic gold here.

With its poor, ill-conceived jokes, Get Hard doesn't get the job done.  It's unfortunate because I saw some real potential in this movie.  I saw potential in the pairing of two star comedians.  As it stands, however, Mayo and Chocolate just aren't a dynamic duo.  Get Hard gets a 0.09% rating.  Have a few gin and tonics with this one.