His name is James King.
Not Jim. Not Jimmy. Certainly not Jimbo. No, when you're a successful stockbroker, juggling numbers with lots of zeroes and commas in 'em, nothing but James will do. Or maybe Mr. King. Or, even better, Sir.
Is James rich? Why, my dear reader, you might as well ask if the Hulk has anger management issues. Of course he's rich. He drives a high-end Audi. His house covers a couple of zip codes. And his fiancée, Alissa, wears an engagement diamond that looks like it was swiped from Great Britain's stash of crown jewels.
"How much money are you going to make today?" Alissa demands of him.
"Enough to choke a baby!" James says.
Making money comes easy to James, and he'll tell any serf within earshot just how easy it is. It's a mindset, he tells his regular car-washer, Darnell. If your focus is right, the Benjamins should just start leaping from the treetops, parachuting directly into your open wallet.
But the Feds don't really think of money like that. And they're convinced it might be jumping into James' wallet with a little too much alacrity. They arrest the guy and haul him in on tax-evasion charges. "I'm innocent!" he says, and he means it. James may be a jerk sometimes, but he's an honest jerk: Someone's trying to frame him.
No matter. The judge, wanting to make an example out of James, sentences him to 10 years—not in a gilded country club jail but in San Quentin, a prison so tough that even the bars carry shivs. There's no way a guy like James, used to living in huge, marble-encrusted mansions, will be able to deal with this new sort of big house. He'll be dead before roll call. Or, if he survives, he could be … well, let's just say he could experience the sorts of things that we here at Plugged In simply don't want to go into a lot of detail about this early in our reviews.
In desperation, James turns to Darnell for advice on how to survive San Quintin. Why Darnell? Well, he's black, of course. James figures that anyone who is African-American and washes cars for a living must know something about being incarcerated: what to say, how to fight, what foods to avoid. And James'll pay handsomely for Darnell's tutoring.
Truth is, Darnell's only knowledge of prison comes from his gangster cousin, Russell, and the movie Boyz n the Hood. But hey, he needs the money. So he shakes hands, slaps on his best racial stereotypes and tries to get James ready for some hard time … and some hard times.
It's worth emphasizing here—mainly because there isn't much else we can slap into this section—that James is, in fact, innocent. And while he's also clueless and sheltered, he's not as much of a jerk as you'd think. In fact, he turns into a pretty nice guy through the course of his "training," becoming a pretty good friend to Darnell. When he eats dinner with Darnell and his family (wife Rita and daughter Makayla), he tells them how great it is to see them spending time together, something he never experienced as a child. And Darnell doesn't take his family for granted. While it's not cool at all for him to lie about his criminal connections, we learn that the main reason he needs James' money is to send Makayla to a better school.
Darnell risks his life to save James from a bunch of racist thugs.
James' vanity license plate reads, "IMA GAWD." After James agrees to Darnell's price for prison tutoring, Darnell points his fingers upward and says, "Thank you!"
So we sidestepped the issue earlier, but it can't be forever ignored: James' biggest fear of prison is getting raped. Darnell feeds that fear by suggesting he's likely to face such a fate quite often unless he takes a great many precautions. Subsequently, allusions to rape and homosexual sex in prison run rampant throughout the film, including obscene physical gestures and sounds.
Darnell takes James to a gay club to help him get used to performing various sex acts (spoken of in graphic terms). James is then set up to perform oral sex on another man and gets his face mashed against the (briefly exposed) private parts. There are quantities of same-sex flirting and crude come-ons, and Darnell encourages one of the men to keep pursuing his proclivities. White supremacist women are seen topless; one leaps onto a vehicle and presses her exposed breasts against the windshield. We see bare backsides as well, sometimes when James exposes himself to his gardeners. Alissa wears revealing lingerie, and the two engage in sexual foreplay and intercourse, complete with explicit movements and squeals of ecstasy.
We see sexualized dancing. We hear about strip clubs. And Darnell acts out the role of an effeminate prisoner. The film's title is used as a double entendre, repeated with a wink and a nudge throughout.
During a prison riot simulation, we see James wrestle with a baboon and get pelted by tennis balls. A shiv (James has made several) ends up protruding grotesquely from his forehead. When Darnell tries to remove it, we see the blade jerking underneath the skin. Darnell encourages James to pick fights with random strangers, whereupon the man gets punched, yanked around and beaten severely. Darnell and James both get into a rumble with a bunch of bad' uns, triggering comical hitting (especially to the crotch), kicking, shoving and bashing.
Someone nearly has his face ripped off by a motorcycle wheel. James hurls himself into a glass coffee table. Darnell punches James in the face for uttering the n-word (which Darnell asked James to say). Parts of buildings explode. Flame throwers are used. Threats are uttered. Guns are pointed. Police tackle lawbreakers. Someone wistfully says he enjoys murdering people. In an effort to get in good with a gang, James nearly goes out to kill someone. (Darnell stops him.)
Crude or Profane Language
More than 100 f-words and close to 50 s-words. We hear "a--," "b--ch," "h---," "d--k," "t-ts" and the n-word. Obscene gestures are flashed five or six times. God's name is mashed up with "d--n."
Drug and Alcohol Content
James smokes a joint. He spills wine on himself while trying to drink it in a vibrating chair. Others quaff champagne, whiskey, etc. Several bottles of wine are smashed. When Darnell takes his daughter to school, he wonders aloud whether he smells weed.
Other Negative Elements
Get Hard relies on racial "humor" for many of its gags, and critics have called the film out for being both racist and homophobic. "If you're disturbed by white-collar crime, but not quite as disturbed as you are by gay sex, then congratulations: You might possess just the right combo of social conscience and unexamined homophobia needed to fully enjoy Get Hard," wrote Variety's Justin Chang, who says the film contains "some of the ugliest gay-panic humor to befoul a studio release in recent memory." White supremacists insult James for having Jewish-looking hair.
James teaches himself how to hide various weapons inside his anus—things that both he and Darnell then touch (which grosses Darnell out). James is shown sitting on a bucket-toilet with his pants down.
He cuts off his monitoring bracelet and tries to make a run for the border.
"Any time you're going to do an R-rated comedy, you're going to offend someone," Will Ferrell said when asked about his involvement with Get Hard. "But that's kind of what we do. We provoke. We prod. We also show a mirror to what's already existing out there. We're playing fictitious characters who are articulating some of the attitudes and misconceptions that already exist."
I'll agree with Ferrell that this movie is, indeed, offensive. It's also ugly and distasteful and flat-out dumb, wasting the talents of its two leading men in the service of a crass, sophomoric waste that's wholly too reliant on one-note prison-rape jokes (both verbal and visual) to "articulate" any sort of true provocation.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Will Ferrell as James King; Kevin Hart as Darnell; Craig T. Nelson as Martin; Alison Brie as Alissa; Edwina Findley Dickerson as Rita; Ariana Neal as Makayla; T.I. as Russell
Etan Cohen ( )
March 27, 2015
June 30, 2015