Offensive? Definitely. Homophobic and racist? Check. Prison rape? Mentioned every 30 seconds. But is the movie hilarious? Oh, yes it is, very much so.
“Get Hard” will not garner stellar critical reviews due to its crude and sometimes cringe-worthy humor that so very often walks the tight rope of attempted satire. First time director Etan Cohen—a comedy writer for films like “Tropic Thunder” and “Idiocracy”—carefully infuses “Get Hard” with exaggerated American stereotypes and blatant class inequality. It will make you erupt with dirty laughter or utter disgust, and then it will make you slowly realize that there are actually people like the ones portrayed.
We first meet James King (Will Ferrell), a hedge-fund manager who lives in Bel-Air. After the CEO of the company—who is also his future father-in-law—makes him partner, James is unexpectedly framed for fraud and sentenced to 10 years in San Quentin State Prison. He hires Darnell (Kevin Hart), his long-time car washer, to help him survive prison life simply because Darnell is African-American and so must have been to prison. A working-class father who has never been to jail, an offended Darnell accepts the job for the money.
The absurdity of a white collar crime resulting in a 10 year sentence at one of the oldest and most notorious U.S. prisons sets the tone of the film fairly well. Ferrell bolsters the ridiculousness by depicting the privileged “one-percent” in its worst fashion, whether it be stretching naked behind a floor-to-ceiling window inside his mansion in front of his gardeners, or suggesting black-face as a method of blending in in Crenshaw. It’s undeniably funny because of James’ convincing unawareness of his offensiveness. Hart pulls his own weight as well, showing us homophobic attitudes and racial stereotypes. In one scene, Darnell describes the frequency of gay sex in prison, and James recoils in fear and disgust, while in another scene, Darnell simultaneously acts as three prisoners: one gay, one black, and one Latino.
By placing racist stereotypes and homophobia in the same vein as class differences, Ferrell and Hart present them together as issues that society still has to deal with despite strides of progress. Although much of the material almost borders on being simply mean-spirited and insulting, Ferrell and Hart’s deeper satirical intent shows. They take the most deplorable people in this country—i.e. neo-Nazi skinheads and corrupt white-collar criminals—and present their vilest qualities on-screen, pushing the limit of provocation for some viewers.
Regardless of whether you find certain scenes insulting or hilarious, Get Hard says enough of the right dialogue at the right time, enough times to generate consistent laughs. Rude jokes abound in the film, and they will make you acknowledge the level of familiarity that disturbing (and funny) scenes have. If you want to laugh hard at a film that is a mashup of a satire and a farce, go watch “Get Hard.”
Film: “Get Hard”
Starring: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart
Release Date: March 27, 2015