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'Get Hard': Kevin Hart prison comedy has a hard time with critics

Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell's prison comedy 'Get Hard' sentenced to poor reviews

The new comedy "Get Hard" stars Will Ferrell as a clueless hedge-fund manager who narrow-mindedly enlists one of the only black guys he knows, a car washer played by Kevin Hart, to toughen him up for an impending prison term.

Here's hoping that Ferrell, Hart and first-time feature director Etan Cohen are resilient themselves, because reviews are not being kind to the film. Although "Get Hard," with four credited writers including Cohen, attempts to walk the tricky line between satirizing stereotypes and reinforcing them, many critics say the movie is only occasionally funny and often tone-deaf.

The Times' Betsy Sharkey writes that the title "Get Hard" is "certainly a better name than, say, 'Laugh Hard,' which you won't do nearly enough. There are plenty of intentionally un-PC jokes packed into the film. With Ferrell and Hart involved, it's probably impossible for anyone to completely resist their baser instincts to be amused by the patently offensive. Though it's hard not to wish more moviegoers would."

Sharkey also says Ferrell and Hart are "much better together when they slip out of the shtick and rely on their acting talent — both men have a nice soft side. It does make you wonder what might have happened if the movie had taken the idea and its execution up a notch."

The Boston Globe's Tom Russo writes, "Audiences are going to want to brace themselves … for a movie that refuses to recognize when it's going too far, with its wince-eliciting jokes about jailhouse rape in particular. The frequent uncomfortable moments take an inordinate amount of fun out of what could have been an enjoyably loopy Ferrell-Hart dream-teaming."

USA Today's Claudia Puig calls the film "hard to sit through," "hardly funny" and a "tone-deaf raunchfest." Although Hart and Ferrell "seem like inspired odd-couple casting," she writes, the "lowbrow mess that's written for them doesn't do justice to their talents. The jokes are a cavalcade of racist and homophobic humorlessness, and the story feels amateurish and cobbled together."

The New York Times' A.O. Scott says, "You can't go to a water park and not get wet. Similarly, you can't watch 'Get Hard' without laughing a few times, whether you like it or not. What makes you laugh will, of course, depend on your taste, or lack thereof."

Scott adds, "The highest praise I can give 'Get Hard' is that it is not quite as awful as it could have been. Mr. Hart, as usual, is jumpy and silly, maniacally mugging his way through every scene. Mr. Ferrell, as usual, is lumbering and silly, using his big body and his adaptable voice to explore new varieties of embarrassment. Neither is exactly bad, though both have been better doing other things."

The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday is more ambivalent, calling "Get Hard" a "fish-out-of-water buddy comedy that — when it's working — also does a smartly scathing job of sending up privilege, entitlement and crony capitalism." On the other hand, it "sometimes veers perilously close to committing the very sins it aspires to criticize. The movie is drenched in gay panic."

In one of the rarer positive reviews, the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle writes, "The way it usually works with screen comedies is that they get a funny guy and a straight guy and pair them off, but 'Get Hard' breaks the pattern. It matches up two comic actors and instead of clashing or canceling each other out, they bring in the best possible result: A comedy with twice the laughs."

As for the controversial jokes, LaSalle says, "The movie plays with racial and sexual stereotypes in a knowing way. The days of the PG comedy, in which the audience is ahead of the filmmakers, are over, at least for now."

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