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Friday, May 1, 2015

Get Hard

Get Lost.

This review is also up at Channel 24

What it's about

James King is a millionaire businessman who finds himself sentenced to ten years of hard time in San Quentin State Prison for various counts of fraud. In order to prepare himself for the ordeal (read: potential rape) of living life in maximum security prison, he approaches Darnell Lewis, the owner of the car-washing business he frequents, with a lucrative offer of $10 000 cash to teach him how to survive his next ten years. The catch though, is that despite James' racist assumptions about him, Darnell is actually a hard working family man and not the hardened criminal that James thinks him to be. Still, Darnell could really, really use that money...

What we thought

I'm getting kind of sick of saying this about damn near every comedy that comes out these days but, seriously, where the hell are the laughs? Yes, Get Hard has been the subject of a lot of controversy for its questionable racial and sexual politics but forget all that – the real problem with Get Hard is that it is absolutely, resolutely lacking in any halfway decent gags. I think I sniggered maybe twice in the film's 100-minute run time and, honestly, I think that was mostly just out of a sense of duty to a bunch of performers – as well as a director and a trio of writers – who really should be a whole lot funnier than this.

We have the director of the hilariously goofy Tropic Thunder and writers whose work includes solid comedies like the original Anchorman and the generally well respected Key and Peele – not to mention, in the case of one of them at least, a recurring acting role in the sublime Arrested Development as one of that series' most memorable minor characters: the Literal Doctor – so you would excuse me for expecting at least some humour, some mirth even, in a collaboration between this kind of comedic talent. And yet, what we get instead is a flat script, with presumably (badly) improvised “jokes”, directed by a guy who suddenly has all the comedic timing of an Adam Sandler movie.

Not enough disappointment for you? How about the talent on screen? I know that Kevin Hart is usually pretty bad in usually pretty terrible movies but if you've ever seen an interview with the guy, he's clearly genuinely funny and really quite likeable – it's just that, once again, he absolutely fails to deliver it in an actual movie role. And then, of course, there's Will Ferrell, a guy who has been very, very funny in the past – albeit not for a while - but who seems weirdly, completely lost here.

Worst of all, the film takes the usually extremely funny Alison Brie (Community, the Five Year Engagement) and turns her into little more than a vacuous sex object. Now, don't get me wrong, as a red-blooded straight male, I can definitely attest to her being very, very convincing in that role but when you consider just how much more she's capable of, it's hard not to join in with the bra-burning puritans and call “sexist” on the way she is used here. Yes, she looks really rather incredible in her underwear but, as the nominal female lead, how about giving her, I don't know, a character and maybe, just maybe, something to actually do?

Mind you, Ms. Brie is not exactly free of blame either. She's spent the last six years working with Dan Harmon so she clearly knows what good comedy (and difficult genius) is. So why, oh why, did she sign on to something this... (to steal an obvious joke) flaccid? I know Community struggles in the ratings game but is she really so strapped for money that she would agree to being in something this rubbish?

Now, as for the film's apparently “offensive” material, in the film's defense, I think it was actually trying to subvert racial and sexual stereotypes but because it's so embarrassingly flat-footed in terms of its comedy, it mostly just comes across as racist and homophobic. Remember Michael Richards' infamous N-word outburst at one of his comedy shows where he tried to shut up a couple of hecklers by launching into a very unfunny and just unspeakably misjudged racial routine that effectively made him the most hated person in Hollywood since Mel Gibson? Well, Get Hard is something like that – only too bland to even be that notable.

Ah well, at least we got Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 to set that sagging comedy bar even lower. Yay?



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