Dave White
Get Hard Review

Dave's Rating:


Better idea: get real.

The pathetically unfunny, lazily directed, ugly-looking Get Hard arrives in theaters several decades late, as its ideal placement in popular culture would be on a drive-in double bill with 1969's The Gay Deceivers or 1976's Norman, Is That You?, both of which got homosexuality incredibly wrong.

But here it is, dumped into theaters in 2015, when the issue of gay civil rights is front and center in national politics. The Supreme Court is about to decide if same-sex marriage will be legal in all fifty states. As a response to this, conservatives are passing "religious freedom" bills which would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people, provided there is a religious reason for doing so. You could say the country is not yet fully united on the issue of treating non-heterosexuals as legitimate human beings.

It's likely that the creators of Get Hard would be upset if you called them anti-gay. They have, at some point, all been involved in the creation of not-stupid, not-insulting, gay-themed comedy. Producer Adam McKay produced the internet short Prop 8: The Musical. Screenwriters Jay Martel and Ian Roberts are writers for Key & Peele, a sketch comedy series that recently (and fairly brilliantly) skewered anti-gay ignorance in a bit about same sex wedding etiquette.

But, see, that's a wedding, a sweet party where men dress up in matching outfits and serve incredible catered food and it's all somewhat fastidious and prissy (check the SNL sketch called Xanax for Gay Summer Weddings: gingham bow ties for miles). Weddings aren't about sex.

Prison, though, that's anal. Specifically, prison is men raping each other, and Get Hard is a comedy about that horror. The plot: Will Ferrell plays a rich financial executive, framed for fraud, and sentenced to 10 years in a maximum security prison. Kevin Hart, as the man who washes Ferrell's car, steps in to coach the future cell-dweller in the ways of staying not-raped.

[Spoilers follow. Really annoying and moronic spoilers. Because this is a really annoying and moronic film, one that will make you long for the shrieking panic of 2003's Boat Trip. The details that make it annoying and moronic matter here.]

As Ferrell's training progresses, it becomes apparent that he will not be able to defend himself behind bars. This is when Hart takes Ferrell to a gay coffee shop to teach him how to perform oral sex on a man, TO PREPARE HIM FOR BEING RAPED. Minor (not at all minor) point: in this 100 minute rape-comedy, the word "rape" is used about three or four times. The rest of the film is packed with euphemisms for penises and their various sexual actions, to numbing effect.

Because of this timidity, the film cannot figure out how to say what it means, thereby effectively equating rape with all male-male sexual contact. In the coffee shop, Hart encourages Ferrell to approach a random stranger and ask for oral sex, by telling Ferrell, "This is what they do." Immediately, Ferrell finds a willing blow-buddy -- because that's what they do -- and takes him to the coffee shop's gay sex nook for a protracted scene of agonized panic. The horror, then, in this rape-comedy, is not the act of violent, forced sex, but about a man becoming the object of any other man's everyday desire.

The film is also bizarrely racist. Every black character who is not Kevin Hart, his wife, or their child, is a South Central Los Angeles gang member, most of whom wave guns around before learning financial management principles from Ferrell. Ferrell tells them that being in their presence is "an ambrosia of primal sensation." He means it nicely, of course.

But the half-hearted dive into the national dialogue on race goes on about as long as a hashtagged conversation with a Starbucks barista. Hart sees to that, capping it off with a quick, lightly passionate, anti-racist speech delivered to a white-power motorcycle gang. Miraculously, none of these Nazi bikers are armed. They express their anger by shaking their fists and chasing Hart and Ferrell on foot. It's adorable.

It would be easy to dismiss Get Hard as too stupid to know what it's doing. But it's not. It knows full well what the current limits are and it obeys them. The anti-gay F-word is never heard. The racist N-word is uttered in a broken, phonetic, timid way by Ferrell at Hart's command. It's all very wrong and also very polite. It wants to go a little too far, but not too-too far; it is not satire, it's cowardice, cynically aiming at targets it thinks it can get away with shooting, while backing off gingerly every time it knows it can't. And in forty years, or maybe in 2016, everyone who happens to watch it will shake their heads and wonder what was supposed to be funny about it.


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