If you put Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell in a movie together, you're going to get some laughs. So "Get Hard," which is more a series of sketches reacting to a situation than an actual movie, has plenty of funny moments.
How could it not? There's a physical dissonance between these two — black/white, tall/short — that has served comedy teams since Laurel and Hardy and Abbot and Costello roamed the earth. Beyond that, Ferrell's man-baby persona (the movie begins with him bawling like an infant) works nicely with Hart's firecracker explosiveness.
But ... a word about homophobia. "Get Hard" — which is overstuffed with too-obvious erectile jokes — has a serious case of it. Which you might think would get buried in the general raunch of things, but it doesn't. Instead, it stands out and the more everything gay is ridiculed as horrifying, the less funny it becomes. Somebody here doth protest too much and ultimately the gay jokes are a drag on the film.
Ferrell plays James King, a financial wizard who's just been made partner at his firm, and is set to marry the spoiled daughter (Alison Brie) of his boss (Craig T. Nelson). Hart is Darnell, owner of a car wash enterprise in the bottom of King's building, whose great ambition is to move his wife (Edwina Findley Dickerson) and daughter (Ariana Neal) to a better neighborhood.
But early on FBI agents raid James' engagement party and take him away for financial shenanigans. James says he's innocent but, after turning down a plea bargain, a judge sentences him to 10 years hard time in a maximum security prison. James — who's used to an elite, country club life — has to toughen up.
So he turns to the only black person he knows, Darnell, for guidance, wrongly assuming that because Darnell is black he's been to prison. Darnell sees an opportunity to earn the money for a down payment on a new house. So, knowing nothing first-hand about prison, he takes the job.
Which sets up the prison boot camp sequences that make up most of the movie. Darnell turns James' mansion into a faux jail, with the servants enlisted as guards. He tries to teach James how to make a mad dog face, he forces him to pick fights with strangers (James always loses), and he tries to force him to have sex with men so he'll be, er, open to such inevitable encounters in prison.
Along the way James attempts to join a Nazi biker gang for protection inside; when that doesn't work, James tries to blend in with a black gang run by Darnell's cousin (T.I.). James' nickname? Mayo.
The film's best bit involves Darnell confronting James on a pretend jail yard, first as a black thug, then as a Latino homeboy, then as an amorous inmate. Hart bounces back and forth between characters as James tries to reason with each one individually. It's a marvel of timing that makes you wish that much work and thought had gone into the entire film.
But alas, that's not the case. "Get Hard" is another goofy, raunchy, silly movie of the sort Ferrell regularly makes, energized by Hart's presence and undercut by its own juvenile homophobic obsessions. Will you laugh? Absolutely. Could this have been a better film? Definitely.
Rated R for pervasive crude and sexual content and language, some graphic nudity, and drug material
Running time: 100 minutes