Will Ferrell tries to dress ghetto and Kevin Hart is unimpressed in "Get Hard."

The same week that It Follows (see: above review) treats rape as a horrifying thing, we have Get Hard, which thinks rape is hilarious, at least if it’s happening to a man. This comedy screened at this year’s South by Southwest, where the reaction was, “Get this slimy movie off me!” While my own reaction wasn’t quite as extreme, I do understand where that was coming from.

The movie begins with filthy rich L.A. hedge fund manager James King (Will Ferrell) being framed for securities fraud and sentenced to 10 years’ hard time at San Quentin. With less than 30 days before his prison term begins, James desperately turns to Darnell (Kevin Hart) and offers to pay for advice on how to survive on the inside, making the dumb-white-guy assumption that because Darnell is black, he must have done time. Darnell really just owns the car-washing business that James’ firm employs, but he plays along because he needs cash to move his family out of South Central.

By all means, let’s start with the gay jokes, which even infiltrate the movie’s title. When Ferrell’s Ricky Bobby freaked out about his archrival’s homosexuality in Talladega Nights, it was funny because the gay panic was coming from the character. Here, though, the sheer number of gags about anal rape and forced fellatio clue you in that the gay panic is coming from hack filmmakers and otherwise talented comedians who can’t think of anything else to joke about. It leads to torturously unfunny bits like James trying to perform oral sex on a random gay guy (Matt Walsh) in a restaurant bathroom or a role-playing exercise where Darnell portrays three different prisoners battling over who gets to make James his bitch.

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The stars are too good not to hit a few marks. Ferrell has a nicely weird bit where James practices trash-talking his future fellow inmates. (“You are a disappointment to your parents, who I fucked!”) Hart spends much of his screen time doing the same “Can you believe this white dude?” act, but he snags a scene where Darnell, pressed for the story of how he went to prison, tearfully recaps the plot of Boyz N the Hood. T.I. also turns up here and contributes a dexterous little turn as a gangsta who keeps tabs on financial news. The funniest scene is a surreal strobe-lit one where Darnell tries to re-create the chaos of a prison riot, which involves corkscrews, tennis balls, and a vicious live baboon.

Still, not enough comes of the partnership between the 6’3″ Ferrell and the 5’4″ Hart, and Get Hard keeps circling back to the same tired subject. Conceivably someone could make a funny comedy out of the subject of prison rape, but it would take filmmakers with a far more macabre sense of humor than the ones here. If I want better entertainment about a sheltered rich white person going to prison with a lot of nonwhite people, I’ll binge-watch Orange Is the New Black.


[box_info]Get Hard
Starring Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart. Directed by Etan Cohen. Written by Jay Martel, Ian Roberts, and Etan Cohen. Rated R.[/box_info]