Published Mar 27, 2015The stock in trade of Will Ferrell and producer Adam McKay's comedies are jokes; a lot of them. There were, for example, enough zingers to produce two entirely different versions of Anchorman 2. If Woody Allen famously tries to mete out ten jokes per minute, this duo aims for at least twice that. It can be excessive, calling to mind a rule that took hold in the The Simpsons writers' room during the show's golden era: "One joke per joke, please." Get Hard succeeds by taking its foot off the pedal, with only around half as many jokes as Anchorman 2. What fills the vacuum is a throwback to the buddy comedies of yesteryear: Warmth.
James King (Will Ferrell) is being sent to prison for fraud. Darnell (Kevin Hart) is an upwardly mobile business owner, mistaken for a thug by Ferrell's privilege-y hedge fund manager. Though we're invited to look down on King's oblivious bloviating, the overriding sense is of a rudderless and unloved man-child. There's always been something quietly touching about Ferrell's humour, even at its most lewd. Frank the Tank running naked down the street in Old School was of course hilarious, but it was also a little bit sad.
Beneath Kevin Hart's rapid-fire shtick, there's a similarly subtle note of kindness. While Hart's acting is often wooden, what comes through is that Darnell legitimately cares about King not being violated in San Quentin, which he quips "Might as well be called San Fuckin'."
This is the film's go-to joke, by the way. Those bothered by prison rape jokes, or the idea that performing fellatio is a fate worse than death for a heterosexual man, might want to skip this one. It's touchy stuff, yes, although at least one gay critic — Vanity Fair's Eric D. Snider — says this isn't cause for offense, writing, "It's not mean-spirited, and it's panicky straight guys, not gays, who are the target."
Get Hard might be crass, but its broad humour is made to appeal to a wide audience, and it just might.