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Get Hard' goes limp

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Ferrell/Hart comedy mostly wasted potential

Sometimes you see a trailer for a movie and the potential leaps out at you. Whether it's an interesting aesthetic or an engaging cast or whatever, your curiosity is piqued. And then, sadly, that initial flare of interest quickly fizzles out as the film quickly reveals itself to be little more than squandered possibility.

For 'Get Hard,' that fizzle happened before the trailer finished playing out.

Pairing Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart is a no-brainer. You've got the man-child movie star and the fast-talking next big thing. Leaving aside your feelings about either performer, putting them on screen together makes a ton of sense. Unfortunately, the people who made this film don't seem to have thought much beyond that.

Ferrell is James King, a numbers whiz at a major investment firm. He's got a big house in Bel-Air and a beautiful fiance (Alison Brie, TV's 'Community') who just happens to be the daughter of his boss (Craig T. Nelson, TV's 'Parenthood'). He lives a charmed life, albeit one that is entitled and sheltered.

A scandal at his workplace leaves James standing accused of misappropriating millions of dollars. He protests his innocence but is soon convicted on all counts and sentenced to 10 years in maximum security prison. His fiance leaves him, his assets are frozen and his life essentially is crumbling around him.

Desperate to avoid the many horrors (real and imagined) of prison, James enlists someone to help him prepare for a life of incarceration the guy who washes his car. But despite James's assumptions, Darnell (Kevin Hart, 'The Wedding Ringer') has never actually been to prison; however, Darnell sees the opportunity to get the money necessary to put a down payment on a new house in a better neighborhood for his family.

And so Darnell decides to fake his way through. He converts James's house into a makeshift prison, enlisting the household staff to help. He trains James how to fight, how to behave, how to do other things he even takes James to meet his cousin Russell (rapper T.I.) in hopes of landing some gang protection.

Oh, and James is still trying to prove his innocence, so there's that too. Oh, and he and Darnell learn that maybe they're not so different after all except when they totally are.

The frustrating thing about 'Get Hard' is the sheer laziness of it. With a pairing like Ferrell and Hart, you're perfectly set up to delve deep and produce a comedy that is both funny and thoughtful. There's a conversation to be had via the socioeconomic and racial dynamics that are being established; we catch a few glimpses of the possibilities early on.

But soon enough, it all devolves into the standard crap, filled with jokes that range from ineffective to offensive you can probably guess some of the primary subjects. It's tired and it's boring (though Hart does have a bit where he subverts the omnipresent 'gay panic' nicely; baby steps, I guess).

This is longtime screenwriter Etan Cohen's first feature directorial effort and it shows. It's surprising that the guy who wrote films like 'Idiocracy' and 'Tropic Thunder' can't see the possibilities inherent in his lead pairing. Of course, he also wrote 'Men in Black 3,' so who the hell knows?

That isn't to say that the movie didn't have moments. With performers like Ferrell and Hart, you can't help but stumble into some funny bits. But those moments were fewer than they should have been. Ferrell has that gleefully anarchic spirit shining beneath his nave pomposity; combining that with Hart's high-octane mania could have resulted in something special.

Instead, we get one more mediocrity to throw on the pile. 'Get Hard' is the pinnacle of disposable entertainment here today, gone tomorrow. It's unfortunate, too this could have been a memorable one.

[2 out of 5]

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