Ever feel like you needed a parenting do-over?
I took my kids (14 and 15-years-old) to see the Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart movie, Get Hard, and even though it had an R rating, I figured, how bad could it be?
Answer: When you have to ask, how bad could it be?, employ the Sandler Rule of Abysmal One-Step-Beyond-Humor, and make an educated guess that you’re better off playing Cards Against Humanity with the kiddies instead.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet (and I wouldn’t recommend it), heres’ the premise: a wealthy Wall Street prick, James King (Will Ferrell), is convicted for fraud and sentenced to ten years in San Quentin; to help prepare himself for his time inside, he enlists the only black man he apparently knows — his car wash guy, Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart) — whom James pompously states that “statistically speaking” he’s clearly been to prison and therefore can get him ready for his stint in the can. Trouble is, Darnell is no con, although he happily cons James to get $30,000 out of him to use as a down payment on a new house.
I didn’t bother to read the (crappy) reviews of the film before I got the tickets. I just assumed that with two fantastic comedians at the helm, it would be a hilarious send-up with some good ol’ fashioned social commentary on race, class, and prejudice woven into the fabric of the movie a la Trading Places (the Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd classic, also R-rated… although nowadays I guess it would be rated G?).
I had some high hopes for the film when it first started — in fact at one point, Darnell admits to his wife that for the money he’s scoring from James, he’s going to “be every stereotype he already thinks I am.” Unfortunately, that’s the first, last, and only time that the movie seems to have any self-awareness, and it devolves into a gross mess of flaccid tropes (gold-digging fiancée, anyone?), limp racial stereotypes, and one lame-ass joke that ultimately the whole movie is based on: how men need to avoid sex with other men like the plague.
The lowest moment of the film is when Darnell gives up on the idea of toughening up James and takes him to a West Hollywood (read: gay) brunch spot to either get him ready to be someone’s prison bitch, freak him out, or both. There is a bathroom stall moment with James trying to work him self up to get another man off (the normally excellent and in this case sadly misused Matt Walsh from Veep), that includes graphic cut-aways to what I assume was a stunt-dick… at which point I (unsuccessfully) tried to cover my kids’ eyes.
This all made me flash back to 2012, when a BBF and I took our sons to see the Adam Sandler/Andy Samberg mess, That’s My Boy. Again, the film featured two great comic minds and a good premise (Donnie Berger (Sandler) fathered Han Solo/Todd Peterson (Samberg) when he was just 13, so he raised the kid like a teenager would with an unhealthy dose of sex, drugs, and bad ’80s rock ‘n roll. Now the son has grown and has no use for the dad… and that’s precisely when Donny shows up for the biggest day of Todd’s life — his wedding). And again, how bad could it be?
The film was nominated for 8 Golden Raspberry Awards and won two (Worst Actor, Worst Screenplay), thanks to jokes based on incest, sex with a grandma, and a semen-soaked wedding gown. There were things in the movie I’d never even thought of, let alone have any way to explain them away to my then pre-pubescent son.
Takeaway: Read reviews, and also if Vanilla Ice is the saving grace/funny “reveal,” just say no.
Back to Get Hard (the title alone is a dick joke — what was I thinking?), and what was most disturbing BEYOND the obvious.
The message that sex between two men is to be avoided at all costs is to say the least offensive. The idea that prison rape is the same thing as gay sex is ignorant and insulting.
The stereotyping in the movie never transcended to the level of social commentary; it just stayed stuck in smooth-brained, lowest hanging fruit kind of humor. If a black man is to be non-threatening, he needs to be a dork a la Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air; racism, which is a deeply ingrained, systemic problem, can be easily cured when in a forced situation where a white man befriends a black man; when Wall Street meets a street gang, everyone’s a criminal, and with that logic, it easily leads to a heartwarming, bonding moment where everyone gets cute nicknames (“Mayo” and “Choc-o-lat”) and wins a pony, as so to speak. (Or at least true love with a lady gangbanger and a pimped out car wash to ride out of the ghetto.)
I wish I’d read that at the screening at SXSW an audience member called the film “… racist as fuck.” It’s telling that director Etan Cohen didn’t have a clear response to the charge, stating, “When you do satire, that’s a big problem. Because it’s sometimes hard to distinguish between satire and what you’re satirizing. So that’s a dangerous thing.”
So stunt penis aside, the satire that could’ve made the film not just funnier, but also more thought provoking and interesting, was out the window. James is harmless because despite being a whiz with numbers, he’s an idiot when it comes to existing in the world with real people, and that supposedly that dismisses him from A #1) really being culpable in his role as a one-percenter that is a bigger criminal threat to the public than say, a Crenshaw gang and B #2) suffering too horribly from repeatedly “kiestering” sharp objects. Darnell fares no better, pulling his own biggest laugh out of his ass when he appropriates the plot of Boyz n the Hood for his backstory — and that’s about as clever as it gets in Get Hard.
Take away: Read reviews and also if John Mayer is the saving grace/funny “reveal,” just say no.
So if you see me dusting off our old Disney DVDs, just know it’s all about counter programming. Then again, those fairy tale worlds are full of child abuse, domestic violence, bestiality, racism, ageism, animal abuse, criminal acts, and kinky sex with vertically challenged beings (that may or may not be a real plot point, but it’s implied). Still, I’ve never known Prince Charming to have a dick slip, so maybe there are still films out there with a happy teachable ending after all.