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Article by Teddy Durgin

Get Hard limps to the finish line

Get Hard? Humph! In these increasingly politically correct times, it's getting harder and harder to tell what makes for a funny comedy. I've written in past reviews that if a comedy made me laugh, no matter how inane or poorly constructed or even offensive it is to some, I'll generally give it a positive review because it did its basic job. Well, on that level, "Get Hard" certainly made me chuckle a good two dozen times throughout its running time. And about a half-dozen of those laughs were long, hearty ones where I missed the next line of dialogue or two. But, if you're going to take a chance on this flick, know that a LOT of the humor revolves around two things - racial stereotypes and straight males' fear of going to jail and being sexually assaulted. So, if you don't think it's possible that those two subjects can be mined for smiles and giggles, this isn't the flick for you. Will Ferrell stars as James King, a millionaire banker who is arrested and convicted of fraud, embezzlement and other white collar crimes. The judge gives him 30 days to get his affairs in order before spending the next 10 years in San Quentin. Afraid that he won't last in prison, he hires the only African-American man he knows - Darnell (Kevin Hart), the guy who operates the garage franchise that washes his BMW each week - to teach him how to "get hard" so he can avoid all the horrible things he has seen on HBO's "Oz." The joke is, the straight-laced, Harvard-educated James is going off a total stereotype. He's never actually gotten to know Darnell, a squeaky-clean family man with a wife and daughter. Darnell decides to masquerade as a street thug/gang banger in return for enough money to put a down payment on a house in a safer neighborhood and better school district. Comically, he starts by calling his wife the "b" word, and she promptly slaps him off his feet. James, though, is truly clueless. Anything Darnell tells him to do to get ready for prison, he does - from turning his mansion into a facsimile of San Quentin to picking fights with really tough dudes at the local public park. I wish the film had spent more time on Darnell's outlandishly ill-conceived tutelage. More could definitely have been done with James' estate grounds being transformed into a prison yard and his wine cellar being morphed into a cell where James is attacked from all sides. I felt the movie started running out of steam when it sent Darnell and James to the Crenshaw neighborhood of southern California for Darnell's gang-leader cousin Russell (hip-hop artist T.I.) to take over James' instruction. Russell does so only after James shows him and the other gang members how to turn their cocaine money into legitimate millions investing in the stock market. It's a funny idea, but ultimately the film's core is the Ferrell-Hart pairing. So, the South Central stuff feels more like screenplay padding than an organic part of the story. If you put this movie on a set of scales, I think the laughs do outweigh the non-laughs. This may read like a soft recommend, but I did enjoy "Get Hard."

"Get Hard" is rated R for pervasive crude and sexual content and language, some graphic nudity and drug material.


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