Upsetting Get Hard a Homophobic, Misogynistic Slog
Aloof hedge fund manager James King (Will Ferrell) has been sentenced to ten years in maximum-security prison for fraud. He’s innocent, trusting future father-in-law and CEO of the investment firm where he works Martin (Craig T. Nelson) to help him uncover the truth. Until then, though, the future convict has 30 days to put his affairs in order before incarceration, turning to small businessman Darnell (Kevin Hart) – a man he assumes was once in prison himself based solely on the color of his skin – to help prepare him for a decade behind bars.
There’s no reason to go into a lot more detail as far as the plot is concerned in regards to the buddy comedy Get Hard. If you’re a fan of Ferrell or Hart, if you like what either of them brings to the table, if you’ve been pleased with their offerings more often than you have not, then by all means this is the movie for you. For everyone else, it’s unlikely you’re going to be going anyway, so spending a lot of time on the ins and the outs of this feature’s narrative mechanics is a waste of time. You’re either in the bag already or you are not, and nothing I write is likely going to change that one way or the other.
For my part, I’m having an incredibly tough time trying to figure out what I want to say as it pertains to this comedic enterprise. On a positive note, it is more evolved and scripted with more energy and enthusiasm than the majority of Hart’s scattershot oeuvre. (Creatively, this is light years beyond rancid, yet still successful, monstrosities like Ride Along or The Wedding Ringer; make of that what you will.) As for Ferrell, he’s as all-in as ever, doing everything he can to get laughs, not caring one iota if portions of his performance fall flat as an ungainly, and unfunny, pancake.
As comedic pairings go, Ferrell and Hart have somewhat invigorating chemistry, the speed and the electricity of their rat-a-tat-tat verbal duels almost always leading somewhere interesting. They play off one another nicely, slowly and astutely, developing a believable friendship no matter how risqué, distasteful and understandably preposterous much of what they’re doing or saying turns out to be. Ferrell has always played the snobbish nincompoop well, his ability to bring that kind of character down to earth one of his strengths. As for Hart, his manic energy and enthusiasm fits the bill, his incredulity as it pertains to his co-star’s continued idiocy worthy of a handful of chuckles.
All of which makes it rather painful for me to say I did not like Get Hard, didn’t like it one single bit. While the elements are confident and assured, while screenwriter turned director Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder, Idiocracy) does a solid job behind the camera, while there are certainly laughs to be found throughout, this movie made me angrier than almost anything I’ve seen this year. The basic thrust of the gags, the things that the filmmakers decided people would find funny, all of it is as risible as anything I could have imagined beforehand, so of a different era and time, it’s as if Ferrell, Hart, Cohen and all the rest transported themselves back to the early 1980s.
What do I mean? In some ways that are understandable, a lot of the film’s mechanics revolve around James’ anxiety of being raped in prison. Without putting one’s head in the sand, it’s not like this isn’t a practical fear, and considering the subject matter, it isn’t like the filmmakers could avoid the topic. The thing is, the script’s look at homosexual behavior, at male sexuality period, is close to rancid, thinking in many ways the very thought of a man desiring another man is so abhorrent it’s impossible for a straight person to even imagine such a thing. Every gag, every joke, almost all points spin directly around this thesis, and the longer things proceed the more annoying and bizarrely homophobic it all becomes.
The thing is, if Cohen and company were trying to make some sort of broader point – a thing I would not put past them – in regards to America and its almost Puritanical point of view as it concerns both male and female sexuality, the ball is unforgivably dropped as far as that’s concerned as well. Male sex is something to be feared, to have thrust upon you whether you desire it or not. Female sex, on the other hand, is an object of no importance, breasts plastered across windshields while the majority of women are either bubbly bimbos or scheming connivers willing to do whatever is necessary to secure their version of a sugar daddy.
Personally, I don’t get it. It’s all very insulting. More than that, in this day and age it doesn’t make a ton of sense. I kept thinking Cohen and company were going to break out, were going expand their satirical targets in pursuit of some profound, if still humorous, overarching point. But the aim remains frustratingly low throughout, and in complete and total honesty I just don’t understand why.
In some ways I admit I’m being a little hypocritical. A few weeks ago I gave a minor pass to Hot Tub Time Machine 2, the film having in some ways the same point of view during one critical sequence. All the same, I feel like my opinion would have been similar had that comedy done the same exact thing throughout its entire running time much like this one does. The simple truth is that almost all of the gags (but admittedly not quite) revolve in one way or another around the disgusting idea of men engaging in anything with even a passing resemblance to sex with other men, while women are, save for one notable exception, all treated as flinty, addle-brained sex objects. It’s a disturbing and disgusting double standard that drove me nuts, making Get Hard an infuriating slog I’m more upset and repulsed by than I am anything else.
Review reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle
Film Rating: 1.5 out of 4