There’s been plenty of Will Ferrell appreciation in the last week, but virtually none of it is for “Get Hard,” his new movie with rising comedy star Kevin Hart. The film, which stars Ferrell as a white collar criminal who gets training from Hart’s character, who he assumes has been to prison but is actually a family man and small businessman. There’s potential there to satirize the stereotypes that privileged white people hold up, but while “Get Hard” does get some jokes in at its entitled protagonist, it’s mostly just a movie full of prison rape jokes (Matt Zoller Seitz goes so far to say that “If you love rape jokes, ‘Get Hard’ is your movie”). Critics have lambasted the film for its casually, blatantly racist, homophobic, and misogynistic material, which seems to have the “I have black and gay friends, I’m not a bigot” mentality. Kinder reviews have argued that the film isn’t racist or homophobic so much as it’s incredibly lazy, bloated and unfunny. Either way, it’s hardly Ferrell’s finest hour.
Noah Gittell, Reel Change
Under Darnell’s orders, King takes a stranger (“Veep’s” Matt Walsh, operating well below his comedic level) into a bathroom stall, kneels in front of him, and tries to psyche himself up to perform oral sex on him. It’s a difficult scene to watch – seeing someone force themselves to perform a sex act is just not funny – but it goes from difficult to downright offensive with a single cut. After the camera holds on King’s disgusted face for a time, it cuts quickly to a shot of the stranger’s penis. That’s all the shot is – a dick – but the film treats it as a comedic punch line because we are so aligned with King’s perspective. He views it as disgusting, and so does the film, essentially imposing a homophobic view on the audience. Read more.
Aisha Harris, Slate
In an interview with HitFix, Ferrell defends the homophobic premise, saying, “We didn’t come up with those fears, they’re just a societal norm. So that’s where the comedy comes from.” Yet nothing is done with those “societal norms”: Stereotypes are thrown about haphazardly, without any true examination of what they mean. By the end of the movie, for instance, the atmospheric fear of homophobia is just as potent as was is at the beginning: Recalling all of Darnell’s anal sex references, a defeated James is suddenly invigorated—the prospect of prison rape empowering him to take down his adversary—like Popeye guzzling down spinach. And James later “assimilates” into the black gang culture of Darnell’s cousin (played by T.I.) in multiple scenes that are about as lame as any moment from Jamie Kennedy’s white-guy-acting-black “comedy” “Malibu’s Most Wanted.” But there’s never any indication that James has learned that there are many other black people besides his newly acquired friend Darnell, who are not innately “thugs.” Read more.
Neil Miller, FIlm School Rejects
Andrew O’Hehir, Salon
If those words are to mean anything at all, it has to be more than “likely to give offense to someone” or “susceptible to misinterpretation.” Mind you, I’m offering only the feeblest possible defense for “Get Hard,” which begins with vague intentions of constructing a crude Dickensian satire on American inequality and squanders about 99 percent of its energy on labored comic sketches that don’t pay off. This movie’s problem is less that it traffics in outrageous stereotypes – effective satire does that almost by definition — than that its purported reasons for doing so get lost amid a bloated, cluttered star vehicle. You’d have to be extraordinarily dense not to see (as the filmmakers have defensively pointed out) that Ferrell’s clueless and entitled white-boy character is the butt of the joke, in the above-mentioned instances and many others, but the theoretical why behind those jokes has evaporated entirely. Read more.
Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune
Is the movie homophobic and racist? I’d say sort of and sort of. Many have said so, ever since the disastrous premiere at South by Southwest. Gay-panic humor isn’t quite the same thing as homophobia, but it’s close enough to be tiresome. And like the uneasy scene in “Anchorman 2” when Ferrell talks jive and “acts black,” “Get Hard” attempts to mine humor from putting an uptight, clueless 1-percenter in South Central Los Angeles, dressing like Lil Wayne and teaching Crenshaw gang members to work the stock market. I laughed when Ferrell smashed a bottle of beer on the sidewalk, just to show he’s tough, but if that’s a movie’s standout bit, that movie’s no standout. Read more.
Nathan Rabin, The Dissolve
It could be argued that “Get Hard” comments on racial stereotypes by depicting the kind of black masculinity James feels he needs to harness as a form of performance in order to survive prison. It looks for humor in the way Darnell behaves the way an ignorant bigot assumes black men behave, because of what they see in movies and on television. But it requires an awful lot of dense conceptual thinking to see “Get Hard” as a genuine satire of race, not a “Bringing Down The House-style exercise in old-fashioned stereotype-based comedy. The script assumes that as long as the white guy at the center looks and talks like an idiot, then it’s completely kosher to depict African-Americans primarily as gun-toting, weed-smoking, oversexed gang-bangers. Read more.
Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com
The film’s not as clever as it seems to think it is. Certainly it’s not clever enough to handle provocative, even explosive material without seeming cynical and opportunistic. It’s a reactionary film posing as a provocative but basically liberal one. A lot of the time it acts as though it’s boldly seeing through mindsets that it is actually just unveiling for the zillionth time. It wants us to think it’s critiquing racism and cultural stereotypes, but that’s mainly a pose—a pretext to get laughs from Will Ferrell dressed in “street” clothes, babbling barely coherent slang, and apologetically insisting “I’m not trying to appropriate your culture.” Read more.
Drew Taylor, The Playlist
“Get Hard” is, first and foremost, a morally repugnant movie, where virtually every character who appears onscreen is boiled down to a one-note caricature…Half of Ferrell’s dialogue is a weird mishmash of racial barbs aimed at being satirical and stuff that is just flat-out racist. But as racist as “Get Hard” is, it’s even more homophobic. This is a movie that uses the word “rape” more than actual movies about rape. It whips itself up into a furious gay panic and never, ever relents in an endlessly one-note gag about the horrors of homosexual sex that runs for the entire movie. This culminates in a sequence so outrageously tone deaf that it should’ve been cut out completely, except that it acts as a major plot point (Ferrell crashes a gay brunch and is so intensely horrified by the thought of oral sex that he doubles down on his thug life training). It is also worth mentioning that “Get Hard” is casually sexist, turning Brie, who is charming and clever and whip smart, into little more than a bubbly sex object meant purely to ogle. Read more.
Alison Willmore, BuzzFeed
“Get Hard,” which opens in theaters on Mar. 27, is a feature-length exercise in hipster racism, joshingly having Ferrell dress up in garish camo and cheetah prints for a trip to Crenshaw, and then — whoops — having the gang members he’s meeting all be drawn from every half-assed racial stereotype available. It’s the film equivalent of Sean Penn announcing Alejandro Iñárritu’s Oscar win by asking, “Who gave this son of a bitch his green card?” and then getting mad that people didn’t like the “inside humor” with his pal. Read more.