Movie Reviews: Get Hard




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     Warner Bros. Pictures (1 hr. 40 min.)
     When a millionaire is nailed for fraud and bound for San Quentin, he turns to his car detailer to help him prepare for the jail stint.
     Kevin Hart, Will Ferrell, T.I.  “Tip” Harris, Alison Brie, Craig T. Nelson and Edwina Findley
Bottom Line:

Samantha Ofole-Prince

It's not hard to get laughs out of this satirical male-buddy comedy about two unlikely characters that strike an unusual and potentially life-changing deal.

It all begins as Will Ferrell’s character, James, a ridiculously wealthy and entitled hedge fund manager is indicted for fraud. Given 30 days to get his affairs in order before a stretch in San Quentin, he asks his car detailer Darnell (Kevin Hart), who he assumes has been in jail because he’s black, to help him prepare for a life behind bars. A struggling but focused entrepreneur, Darnell has never been to jail, but rises to the occasion, as the $30,000 incentive would help his ailing business.  Together, the two men do whatever it takes for James to “get hard” and, in the process, discover how wrong they were about a lot of things – including each other.

Both Hart and Ferrell make a fine, unlikely team, seeming to enjoy each other's company even when saying the craziest of things. That comic energy also defines their onscreen partnership as a couple of guys woefully mismatched in every possible way starting with the height disparity that comes in handy when James has to use Darnell as a human barbell. They are poles apart on everything from their worldviews, to their taste in music.

The movie deals with stereotypes in a funny, clever way and makes fun of all of them. There’s plenty of jokey sadism, which involves tossing every imaginable racial epithet as Darnell takes James through a crash course in jail preparation. He turns James’ palatial digs into something resembling a maximum security prison, complete with floodlights and barbed wire, his tennis court is turned into a prison yard and he is put through a lot of physical tests to toughen up.  There are several hilarious scenes including one where Darnell goes crazy, representing different groups that James might encounter in the prison yard.

Joining Ferrell and Hart as they try to whip James into shape for his jail stint, are T.I. “Tip” Harris who plays Darnell’s estranged cousin, Russell, a genuine gang- banger and head of the formidable Crenshaw Kings; Alison Brie as James’ socialite girlfriend Alissa, who ditches him once he’s arrested and Craig T. Nelson as -Alissa’s wealthy father. Edwina Findley (HBO’s “Treme”) rounds off the main cast as Darnell’s wife, Rita.

A jailhouse comedy is not going to be funny if it doesn’t work past all the checklists regarding lockup: shanks, skinheads, sexual favors and showers. “Get Hard” takes all the requisites and delivers the humor.

Directed by Etan Cohen, the movie's story is nothing to write home about as it's pretty routine, but what makes it satisfying is the wit. With a quirky and funny dialogue, it has its share of effective moments - most of which come courtesy of stars Hart and Ferrell.

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