I can’t believe that I honestly expected anything different from a Hollywood comedy starring Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart. For a brief moment, I had a glimmer of hope that the film’s premise concerning James King (Ferrell) a soon-to-be-incarcerated businessman, hiring a black man, Darnell Lewis (Hart), to “teach him how to survive in prison” could be an interesting glance at American racial politics. The principle reason was that King falsely assumes that Lewis knows what it’s like in prison based solely on the fact that he’s black. And Lewis, in reality a “Cliff Huxtable m**********r” and struggling small-business owner, plays along with his delusion and deliberately “thugs himself out” so that King will hire him and pay him an exorbitant fee of $30,000 that he needs to put his daughter in a good school. This explores a fascinating concept: how much do African-Americans (and other minorities, for that matter) have to deliberately play up cultural stereotypes in order to survive and succeed in an inherently racist society? Is betraying his entire culture worth it if it means that Lewis’ daughter can grow up in a safer environment? Should a black person “ghetto” themselves if it means getting a shot at upward mobility?
But my, there were a lot of quotation marks in that opening paragraph. Perhaps that’s appropriate considering the fact that Get Hard doesn’t busy itself with being particularly innovative or original and instead either bastardizes or quotes much, much better films. It recycles tired clichés about awkward white people trying to be black. Both Ferrell and Hart reuse their trademark comedic personae without any variation: Ferrell is loud, childish and obnoxious; Hart is loud, childish, and short. The quoting of other films gets so egregious that at one point Hart literally summarizes the plot of John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood (1991) during a scene where he has to lie to Ferrell about why he went to prison.
If only the film had been more intelligent.
If only it didn’t rely so heavily on shock humor (the worst offender being a scene where Ferrell tries and fails to give a blowjob to a gay man in a restroom so he can “prepare” for having to sexually service the other inmates).
If only it eschewed tired LGBTQ+ and racial stereotypes and legitimately examined racial and economic politics in America;
If only such a movie hadn’t already been made in 1983 under the title Trading Places, thereby making Get Hard not only subjectively terrible, but objectively irrelevant.