'Get Hard': What the Critics Are Saying

Will Ferrell enlists the help of Kevin Hart to toughen up before a stint in federal prison.

Will Ferrell stars as millionaire James King, who is heading to San Quentin State Prison for fraud. He enlists the help of his building's car washer, Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart), whom he mistakenly believes has served time, to toughen him up before his stint in the big house.

The film marks the feature directorial debut of screenwriter Etan Cohen and also stars Craig T. Nelson, Alison Brie, and Tip "T.I." Harris.

The R-rated comedy opens against DreamWorks Animation's much more family-friendly alien comedy, Home, in what looks to be a close race for the No. 1 spot at the box office this weekend. Both films are expected to open somewhere in the mid-$30 million range.

Read what top critics are saying about Get Hard:

The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore says, "The two very different comedians work fairly well together here, with an energized Hart (whose character hides the fact that he's barely more streetwise than his employer) running roughshod over a naive, fearful Ferrell. Aiming low in a way that will scare off some of Ferrell's fair-weather fans, the pic is unimaginative but does a good enough job to please the rest of them (Fans of Hart should enjoy it more)." Hart's "initial shock-and-awe boot camp tactics are the most amusing part of the film, though it's hard to understand why they don't go further: If you were given permission to terrorize and abuse a rich man who'd always treated you like a peasant, wouldn't you enjoy it a bit? Instead, [Hart] soon decides he won't succeed in teaching James to protect himself and should instead prepare him for a decade of sodomy. So he takes James to a gay brunch and tells him to go learn how to perform certain oral favors."

Occasionally, "Ferrell delivers a clueless-rich-guy line in a way that recalls the haughtiness of Dan Aykroyd's Louis Winthorpe III in Trading Places. That film had more than a little in common with this one: clashes of race and economic class, a privileged man's fear of deprivation, a black star who could put the world on hold with the sheer energy of his patter. But Get Hard premiered two hours ago, and it already seems more dated than Trading Places — not to mention less savvy about all the subjects it pretends to be addressing while it tries to make us laugh."

The Guardian's Alex Needham calls the film "a comedy that will make a lot of people very angry." A particular scene involving oral sex in a bathroom stall at a gay bar "sounds horrendous; watching it, I have to admit that I laughed — Farrell is a gifted comic performer — and I'm gay. But I suspect that in years to come, media studies students will watch this film and be astonished that such a negative portrayal of homosexuality persisted in the mainstream in 2015." And the "film's sensitivity to race isn't much better. It sees [Ferrell] attempting to join a white supremacist fraternity at [Hart]'s instigation, and then finally bonding with a black gang who he teaches the tricks of his trade: 'The stock market is gangsta,' they conclude." The film "totally runs out of juice in its final quarter" and "does seem dumb and dated."

The Boston Globe's Tom Russo notes, "Audiences are going to want to brace themselves, too — for a movie that refuses to recognize when it's going too far, with its wince-eliciting jokes about jailhouse rape in particular. The frequent uncomfortable moments take an inordinate amount of fun out of what could have been an enjoyably loopy Ferrell-Hart dream-teaming." The film features "excruciating homophobic 'humor'" and "the references just go on and on," but "you can sense rookie director Etan Cohen … unsubtly trying for crowd-appeasing balance." But here's "a thought, though: Why not try making silliness your comedy default rather than tastelessness?"

Claudia Puig of USA Today finds the film "hard to sit through and hardly funny. So unless you're really hard up for entertainment, stay away from this tone-deaf raunchfest." Although "Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart seem like inspired odd-couple casting" the "lowbrow mess that's written for them doesn't do justice to their talents." The flim's "jokes are a cavalcade of racist and homophobic humorlessness, and the story feel amateurish and cobbled together," and the "movie is a drawn-out litany of race-related gags and jokes about gay sex behind bars." Cohen "is not a good match for such immature material" and even though "Hart's manic energy and Ferrell's willingness to play a dimwit come close to working," the "script stops short of inspired humor."

The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday gives the film two out of four stars, labeling it a "scattershot, funny-dumb satire" and "a fish-out-of-water buddy comedy that — when it's working — also does a smartly scathing job of sending up privilege, entitlement and crony capitalism." Ferrell and Hart "have a genial, easygoing chemistry and Get Hard manages to score more than a few good points about facile assumptions and toxic hypocrisy."