SXSW Review: “Get Hard” isn’t funny or creative, wastes A-List comedic talent

Alex Pelham

“Get Hard” takes a tried-and-true premise, one where a satisfied, upper-class weakling is sentenced to a long stint in prison, and drives it mercilessly into the ground. Everything about this mediocre comedy is formulaic and predictable, offering no clever twists or any intrigue. The characters are unlikeable, unrelatable caricatures. The humor in this film is dominated by homophobic jokes, race puns and other “edgy” comedic bits that ceased being edgy long ago. Leading men Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart clearly deserve better than this unfunny buddy-comedy.

After millionaire stock broker James King (Ferrell) is wrongly nailed for fraud and sentenced to 10 years in maximum security prison, he is given a month to get his affairs in order. A pampered businessman and overall weakling, James knows that being thrown in prison is a death sentence. He runs in Darrell Lewis (Hart), a car-washer who is trying to raise funds to move his family to a better neighborhood. Darrell, who falsely tells James that he’s been to prison, proposes a deal: he will toughen James up in exchange for the money he needs. Together, the two attempt to prepare James while also trying to figure out who framed him in the first place.

One fatally weak aspect of the film is the lackluster script, which offers little ingenuity. It never tries anything new and fails to stand out in any fashion. The plot’s focus is all over the place, as the characters develop new motivations every twenty minutes. At first, Darrell is trying to toughen up James. Then, seeing it as a lost cause, he decides to tutor him on how to simply “submit” himself to other inmates. After that bit goes nowhere, they finally decide to find out who framed James to clear his name. It seems the screenwriters thought up every plot point that could emerge from the premise and jammed them all together.

Ferrell does his best with the material, and for the most part his delivery is pretty solid. His character is supposed to be unlikeable when he is introduced, but he’s so stuck-up and heinous that it becomes really difficult to sympathize with him and want him to succeed. Hart’s character is extremely more relatable, and he carries the comedic weight throughout the film. If handed a better script, Hart would have really shined. Here, he is just sadly wasted.

To its credit, the movie starts off funny, but then loses steam as it starts to recycle the same jokes. The material sticks to a slim variety of primarily sexual and racial jokes, which all feel played-out and half-heartedly written. These are the jokes that numerous R-rated comedies have already made, and “Get Hard” just leafs through the best of the bunch and then dumbs them down even further.

“Get Hard” doesn’t try to put a new spin on the “survive prison” comedy. The script just packs the story with every scenario that can be extracted from the premise, leaving the plot aimless. The talented cast is given nothing good to work with, forcing them to resort to low-brow, offensive gags that have already been done to death. Audiences may have been excited for the interesting opportunities that teaming Hart with Ferrell could have inspired, but they are in for a rude, unfunny awakening.

Director: Etan Cohen

  • Genre: Comedy
  • Runtime: 100 minutes
  • Rating: 3/10 Pimped-out Will Ferrells