REVIEW | ‘Get Hard’ surprises with actors’ chemistry

I think it’s safe to say that when you call your movie “Get Hard,” you’re begging for audiences to go in with low expectations.

So I went into Ethan Cohen’s new comedy with extremely low expectations.

To my astonishment, “Get Hard” is not only funny but consistently funny, a major plus. It’s often difficult to sustain comedic momentum over the course of a feature-length comedy, particularly when the comedy isn’t striving for much. “Get Hard” isn’t a revolutionary picture; it acknowledges and sort of plays around with common racial — both black and white — ethnic and cultural stereotypes, but it’s not out to change the world, nor is it a scathing satire. Instead, it simply wants to tell raunchy jokes, which it does. And it had me laughing…a lot.

The movie’s greatest strength is the first-ever paring of comedic titan Will Ferrell and comedian Kevin Hart — a pairing that’s superb.

Ferrell plays James, a doormat executive at a stock company who’s framed for fraud and sentenced to 10 years in a maximum-security prison. Patronizing, wimpy, naïve and idiotic, James is a standard-issue Ferrell character. However, much like other well-known comedic personas — Jim Carrey, Jonah Hill, to name a few — Ferrell is good at what he does, and here he makes it look effortless. The square, technical way he delivers lines, his childlike ignorance toward urban culture and his penchant for having mini freak-outs and bouts of pathetic weeping is impeccable. And when matched with Hart’s own comedic persona, it’s even better.

In general, I think Hart is hit-and-miss. In movies such as “Think Like a Man” and the horrendous “Ride Along,” he mainly plays the sidekick. In Cohen’s film, Hart plays a slightly toned-down, more matured version of his persona, one that proves to be refreshing.

He’s Darnell, a working-class family man who’s hired to teach James how to be tough in prison to avoid rape — a stereotype that provides the basis for a large majority of the jokes. The only problem is, Darnell isn’t exactly the tough type and is, in some ways, just as wimpy as James.

Together, the two have phenomenal chemistry: Just when you start to get tired of one, the other swoops in to save the scene.

For the most part, Cohen doesn’t let each of the individual set pieces go on for too long. Even during those extended sequences where Ferrell and Hart were clearly given the go-ahead to improvise off one another for as long as possible, I never felt fatigued. 

Overall, the script by Cohen, Jay Martel and Ian Roberts keeps the focus on the central duo, with little attention to the actual plot.

The movie isn’t perfect, and not just because of the normal flaws — scenes going on for too long easy gross-out humor, an action-filled finale, etc. — that plague comedies like this.

Even so, I still can’t deny the fun time I had while watching “Get Hard.” It’s not destined to be a comedy classic, but any comedy that can keep me constantly laughing for its entire duration is worth the time in my book.