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With a boombox perched on his shoulder, Will Ferrell and his latest screen foil, Kevin Hart, brought a South by Southwest crowd to its feet for a hip-hop dance party ahead of the world premiere of their buddy comedy, Warner Bros.’ Get Hard.
Joined by the film’s first-time director, Etan Cohen — the writer of films like Tropic Thunder and Men in Black 3, and a punch-up writer on other Ferrell projects — the two comedy superstars encouraged the crowd to get the word out.
“If you don’t like it, I want you to go out in the street and kill yourself,” Hart said, then asked fans of the film to relay their positive feedback to him via social media. Ferrell interjected that he abstains from social media, but fans were welcome to send him handwritten correspondence on fine stationery, and he’d respond in calligraphy.
The decidedly un-P.C. comedy has Ferrell playing an uptight and exceedingly naive businessman who is framed for a white-collar crime and sentenced to prison. Hart plays a car wash employee who convinces Ferrell’s character he’s a hardened former gang member who can prepare him for his life in the big house.
What follows are 90 minutes of setups in which Ferrell finds himself hiding various weapons in his rectum (a familiar gag to those who may have seen The Interview), exploring the world of oral sex in a men’s bathroom, incurring countless injuries and, in one extended arc, ingratiating himself to an African-American L.A. street gang led by T.I.
The film drew consistent laughs from the always rambunctious festival crowd. But things grew uncharacteristically uncomfortable during the post-screening question-and-answer session, when a solo Cohen — Ferrell and Hart had not stuck around — was asked by a man who identified himself as “a Jew” if the director was nervous to present the “racist as f— film” before a live audience. (He later added that he found the film “hysterical at the same time.”)
Cohen, slightly rattled by the aggressive line of questioning, responded, “The truth was that was a really delicate balance. … It was really hard thing to modulate because we really wanted to make a statement about this stuff. We wanted to think about this stuff and think about the stereotypes but not go too far where comedy doesn’t deserve to go.”
Asked by another man if the penis glimpsed in the film’s bathroom sex sequence and seemingly belonging to Veep‘s Matt Walsh — a scene that could well draw jeers from gay rights groups — was real or a prosthetic, Cohen paused for a moment, then offered, “I’ll just say God bless Will Ferrell.”
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