Director: Etan Cohen
Cast: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Craig T. Nelson, Alison Brie, Edwina Findley Dickerson, Ariana Neal, Tip "T.I." Harris, Paul Ben-Victor
MPAA Rating: (for pervasive crude and sexual content and language, some graphic nudity, and drug material)
Running Time: 1:40
Release Date: 3/27/15
Review by Mark Dujsik | March 26, 2015
Here is an ounce of credit to Get Hard for avoiding any mention of the innuendo involving an inmate dropping the soap in the prison shower. Thus ends the handing out of any form, size, or weight of credit to the movie, which likely avoided that specific example of innuendo because it's not exactly the sort of movie that has much need for innuendo.
If it wants to make a joke about prison rape, the movie simply does. By the way, it really, really wants to make a lot of jokes about prison rape. There are points where we become a little grateful that it's only every ninth or 10th joke in the movie, since, for a while, it's pretty much every other joke in the movie. There are a couple of scenes in which it's every joke.
The entire plot hinges on the fact that James King (Will Ferrell), a wealthy stockbroker who's convicted of multiple counts of fraud and embezzlement, doesn't want to become a victim of prison rape. The weird part about his attitude—and the attitude of pretty much every character who in the movie who brings up the topic—is that he's not afraid of becoming a victim of violence, sexual or otherwise. It's that he's afraid of the attack on his sexuality.
It's a strange attitude that the movie rather efficiently, if unintentionally, summarizes. The only reason that jokes about prison rape are still considered the only "acceptable" ones is because of that attitude. In the context here and in pretty much any other example of the joke being used, it's not a joke about sexual violence. It's a barely disguised joke centering on gay panic.
The screenplay (by Jay Martel, Ian Roberts, and director Etan Cohen) thinks this is hilarious. It even gives us an extended scene at a restaurant that's well-known for being a place where gay men meet, greet, and other things. In the scene, Darnell (Kevin Hart), whom James has hired to prepare him for life in prison (for a reason that—trust me—we'll get to in a bit), has given up on James' ability to "get hard"—to display aggression and fight back against any attacks on him when necessary. Darnell figures it's time that James simply accept the fact that he's going to be forced to do things of a sexual nature that he otherwise wouldn't.
That, by the way, is pretty much as simplified a definition of rape that anyone could offer, but the movie still thinks it's hilarious. In fact, it gives us another scene in which James is in a bathroom stall trying to bring himself to perform a sexual act on a random man from the restaurant, while Darnell is being hit on by another man. In case there was any doubt about from where the "humor" of prison rape originates, here it is in the form of a scene in which so-called "gay behavior" is seen as something abnormal and terrifying in any context—forced, consensual, or because of an innocent misunderstanding.
Even if we were to ignore all of this—an impossibility, given that, as mentioned before, offering such jokes is the movie's go-to mode—we'd still have to deal with the movie's confused attitudes regarding race. Yes, James assumes Darnell has been in prison simply because he's a black man.
The "joke" is that James is dumb and slightly racist. It's in that "innocent" way, of course, in which he's scared by Darnell knocking on his window and cites statistics as a rationale, but it's fine because he can't bring himself to say a certain racial epithet even when his life is in danger. Apart from Darnell, though, pretty much every other character of color here is presented as a gross stereotype, with its portrayal of Darnell's cousin (Tip "T.I." Harris) and his gang-member friends serving as the nadir of the movie's ass-backwards views on matters of race. Actually, the lowest point might be when James decides to "appropriate" what he sees as "black culture" and become a "gangsta" himself.
There's no reason such material couldn't be funny, but it would certainly take a movie that actually had more than tenuous grasp on reality and understood the ignorance of certain fears, instead of just treating rape as a joke and playing into that ignorance for cheap laughs. Even if we were to ignore all of this (Again, in case it isn't clear, that's an impossibility), there's no avoiding that Get Hard is just dismal as a comedy, filled with repetitive, obvious, and tired attempts at humor.
Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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