Get Hard‘s comic credentials are amongst the worst ever vested on an audience. The movie’s like a drunk with a conviction for death by dangerous driving, dangling your cars keys in front of your face and offering to run your kids to school. A remake of Rob Schiender’s never-seen Big Stan (which at 8 years of age begs to be revisited), it constitutes a battle of schticks, neither of which offer the discerning comedy fan much hope of mirth.
Kevin Hart’s impression of Chris Tucker continues, and one has to say it’s well honed. He replicates the motormouth hyperactivity, high pitched wailing and double take tic with biopic baiting precision. The filmmakers must have hoped that dropping Hart into underwritten scenarios – join the dots sketches – would result into much improvised hilarity. It worked for Eddie Murphy, after all. But Hart’s well of comic invention and scattergun quippery is dry. It’s not clear he could make us laugh if someone had actually cared enough to supply the jokes. Yet the movie’s built on this swamp.
Jumping on the floorboards is Will Ferrell, another man relying on a persona in lieu of polished wit. He’s loud, thickish, prone to Ron Burgundy-like exclamations, so we’ve no trouble accepting he’s a finance genius who’s amassed a fortune. The script crowbars in this observation, balm disguised as self-deprecation, as it must, because the movie’s premise is that Ferrell’s so absurdly ignorant, like a walking caricature of the elite, that he’d assume Hart had a prison history and criminal past just because he was black. Hart’s furious, as we’d expect him to be, but even here the movie’s inadvertently being disingenuous as Hart DOES have a criminal conviction and did spend time in the clink, his character assuming Hart’s own middle name as a kind of meta in joke, riffing on the sheer irony of it all. If the story and script were this sophisticated the jokes would flow like wine but instead we have yet another Hollywood comedy in which personality is thought to be enough. Once upon a time that would have been the spur not the film entire.
In a movie compromised of a sketch daisy chain, in which identity politics and lazy race ‘n’ sex jokes constitute the bulk of the offer, we’re left to reflect that our heroes are a bigot and a liar. Naturally both men are redeemed at the close, Ferrell’s ignorance the product of social segregation, Hart’s manipulations a means to pull his kid out of a sink school where they screen for weapons on the way in, but by then we’re so tired – 100 mins of overplayed, undernourished comedy acting like a retarding serum – that we couldn’t care less about either man. Social satire this broad diffuses to nothing, the cultural difference between races and the assumptions held by each group about the other being neither inherently funny or a sound foundation for a feature length movie. Note to comedy filmmakers: ground your characters and add jokes. It worked once and will again.