"Get Hard" wins zero points for originality, or subtlety. It's basically a rip-off of "Trading Places," with Will Ferrell as the snooty-yet-decent rich white guy who gets wised up to the hard knocks of life by a wiseacre black man, Kevin Hart, who pretends that he's more ghetto than he really is.
This comedy relies on multitudes of stereotypes, homophobic fears about prison rape, and a heaping helping of just plain old raunch to get its laughs. Yet get its laughs it does.
This is the sort of movie that you roar with laughter at, then feel ashamed about it afterward.
Ferrell plays James King, a young(ish) master of the universe who's about to move from being really rich to disgustingly rich. It's basically the line between people who have cavernous homes with servants around 24/7 and those who own their islands.
James has just been made partner at Wealthrop Fund Management, Los Angeles' top investment firm, and he's marrying the daughter (Alison Brie) of the CEO (Craig T. Nelson) to boot. He treats those around him as chattel, not out of innate meanness but just because that's the world he was brought up in. It's the 1 percent of the 1 percent, where you pull yourself up by your own bootstraps ... with help of $8 million in seed money from your daddy.
One of those underlings he occasionally hobnobs with is Darnell (Hart), who owns Hollywood Luxury Bubbles, the low-rent car wash company that services the chic fleet of James and company. Darnell needs a $30,000 loan to launch his own storefront and get his family out of a crappy neighborhood, but James would rather dispense condescending advice than startup money.
When James is arrested and convicted of securities fraud, however, he's forced to reevaluate his priorities. The silver spooner is facing 10 years of hard time in maximum security -- "I'm going to be attending San Quentin," is how he puts it in his fey way. Petrified by the prospect of becoming the target of gay sexual overtures, he hires Darnell to toughen him up before his stint begins.
Darnell is actually a striving family man with an adorable wife and daughter (Edwina Findley Dickerson and Ariana Neal, respectively) who wears khakis and has never had so much as a parking ticket in his life. But if the rich white dude is willing to shower him with money, he's happy to act the gangster. He gets by through borrowing the plot of "Boyz in the Hood" for his own life story, and copping tips from his cousin Russell (T.I.), who really is a scary gangbanger.
Things go from there, with the two bonding over Darnell's concocted training regimen, which includes turning James' mansion into a simulated lockdown, with his servants acting as his oppressors. (They are only too happy to comply with the play-acting.) James learns about "mad dog face," shivs and "keistering" any necessary contraband.
At various points they infiltrate a white supremacist gang and a gay hangout, since Darnell surmises that because James is so hopeless at self-defense, he either needs to recruit someone to protect him or, ah, learn how to be a people-pleaser.
Directed by rookie Etan Cohen, who also wrote the screenplay with Jay Martel and Ian Roberts, "Get Hard" is a gleefully un-politically correct comedy that doggedly pursues humor no matter what dark crevice in which it may hide. Ferrell and Hart do amiable variations of their familiar character types, and share good onscreen chemistry and comedic timing.
You may cringe while watching this movie, but it'll be with a smile on your lips.