Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart team up in ‘Get Hard’

Hart prepares Ferrell for his gang initiation.

Two stars

Get Hard Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Alison Brie. Directed by Etan Cohen. Rated R. Opens Friday.

Before becoming overwhelmed by cheap prison-rape jokes, Get Hard actually has the potential to be an incisive takedown of one-percenters, embodied in finance executive James King (Will Ferrell), an oblivious upper-upper-class doofus with a spoiled trophy fiancée (Alison Brie). But James’ conviction for fraud and embezzlement is presented as an obvious frame job, and the movie shifts focus from indicting the elite to building a bromance between James and Darnell (Kevin Hart), the man he hires to prepare him for life in prison.

Although Darnell is an upstanding family man, James assumes that because he’s black, he’s been to prison, and Darnell lets the misconception slide because he needs the money. But Darnell’s lack of experience ends up not being all that important, as he puts James through some obvious comic paces to get him ready to face hard time. Mainly that involves preparing for being raped and/or fending off being raped, culminating in a graphic, tasteless and unfunny scene of James attempting to perform oral sex on a man he picks up at a gay hangout.

For all its ill-advised humor about race and sexuality, Get Hard is less offensive than inconsistent and misguided, especially in its third-act focus on the belabored investigation into clearing James’ name (ending in a drawn-out, unnecessary action sequence). Ferrell and Hart have decent chemistry, but the material is too thin to offer a proper showcase for their talents. Get Hard tries for easy laughs over intelligent commentary, but it doesn’t succeed at either one.

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