There is a very popular trend with R-rated comedies which involves taking a very thin premise, throwing two comedy actors at the role, and hoping it works. You can trace the roots of this back to 21 Jump Street, which was a prime example of how to do it very well. Two grown men go undercover at a high school – thin concept; Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill – two comedy actors.
We then saw the formula repeated with Let’s Be Cops. Again, thin concept being two men pretending to be police officers and the comedy actors being Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. It shouldn’t have worked but somehow it did and I thought was very funny.
Get Hard follows the same formula but doesn’t have the same success. The concept of a clean cut black guy teaching a deluded, rich white guy how to survive in prison, regardless of having no knowledge between them , is the thin one, although actually has quite a bit more meat to it than the previous two films I have mentioned.
The two comedy actors also make for quite a successful pairing. Kevin Hart is the comedy go to man at the moment, even though it looks like he is literally saying yes to anything where he gets to do a poor Eddie Murphy/Martin Lawrence impression. Here he gets to be the calmer, almost the straight-man role in the comedy duo. From the very minimal amount of Kevin Hart I have seen, this is a role I actually prefer and he is much better at than the wacky, “shouting and screaming at everything” role he usually takes.
This is because the pure comedy role is taken by Will Ferrell. I have a problem with Ferrell taking these “moron with a heart of gold” role, which he churns out as much as Adam Sandler does with “dumb frat-boy with a heart of gold.” The roles are becoming the same and the movies are formulaic. After Anchorman, Blades of Glory and Talladega Nights, it is starting to feel like Ferrell is phoning it in, losing the comedy magic he once owned.
This begins to translate to Get Hard as well. We get him crying, showing his naked ass, doing some convincing slapstick and getting into a comedy montage that involves his character being exposed to many different, fish-out-water situations; all things we saw in all of his crazy character movies before.
It means that the film gives us what most Will Ferrell movies do, a few very funny moments but mostly watchable, silly scenes that feel tied together by quite a loose thread. That loose thread is the aforementioned plot about preparing Ferrell for prison. Within this are some very good ideas, like Ferrell fighting random people on the street to get tough or being exposed to a prison riot but mostly it is very contrived ideas, even for a Ferrell comedy.
The saving grace are the moments that are not necessarily plot driven but when Ferrell and Hart get scenes together, just the two of them, with limited plot necessary but just (probably) improvising off the other. Scenes about nicknames for the pair or why Ferrell should try picking up gay man in a cafe are much funnier than some of the more, higher concept scenes that try to be the funniest moments of the movie. It results in a movie that is watchable but ultimately forgettable; a trend that is developing for most Ferrell comedies at the moment.
Overall, Get Hard takes a well tested formula and produces a very generic comedy. It has two very accomplished leads, with Kevin Hart being the more reserved character, letting Ferrell do what he has done in so many other movies. Unfortunately, that is the issue, with the film offering very little that is new or original, unless it is just the comedy duo improvising together.
Rating – 2.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)