Ferrell long ago began repeating himself. In Get Hard, the serious limitations of his comic persona are strained to the breaking point. He plays hedge fund manager James King, a clueless criminal who gets arrested for unwittingly ripping off his clients to help line the pockets of boss Martin (Craig T. Nelson). A no-nonsense judge, tired of seeing rich finance managers screw over middle-class investors, sentences James to ten years hard time in San Quentin. Ferrell does plenty of playing dumb and shouting out random, profanity-laden non-sequiturs as James learns how to “get hard” in order to endure life in the big house. James’ life quickly crumbles, with his bitchy trophy wife (a woefully underused Alison Brie) abruptly leaving him.
That’s how Darnell (Hart), a family man with no criminal record, comes into the picture. James meets the working-class Darnell and, simply based on Darnell being black, assumes he has experience in a penitentiary. He hires Darnell to “train” him for prison life. Tempted by the generous money James offers, he accepts against his better judgment. This training consists of a series of predictable set pieces. It’s also where the film’s precious few laughs are found, with James attempting to pick fights with bodybuilders at the park and even visiting a gay bar in hopes of preparing for gay sex. But the training goes on and on (Darnell builds a mock prison yard in James’ tennis court, hires additional help, and stages mock “jailbreak” practices runs) until the premise is driven into the ground.
The whole thing is yet another spin on the theme of “ultra-square white guy gets schooled in hipness by streetwise black guy.” Director Etan Cohen (who co-scripted with Jay Martel and Ian Roberts) attempts to subvert the theme by making Darnell the true straight-laced one, but doesn’t go far enough to make any kind of real point about racial preconceptions. They tip-toe all around bigger themes about white-collar crime, the abuses committed by some in the “one percent,” and the prejudices that law-abiding, hard-working racial minorities continue to face in America. But rather than sharpening any of those points, Cohen and company settle for trying to satisfy the lowest common denominator by always going for the cheapest joke.
Warner Bros.’ Blu-ray is technically sound, with the sharp cinematography by Tim Suhrstedt looking flawless in the 1080p, high definition transfer. The lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix matches the quality of the visuals. Right from the opening synth stabs of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” it’s apparent that this will be a clear, fulsome, and overall satisfying audio presentation.
As for special features, fans will find a fair amount of material to revel in. There are a lot of options to click on, but not a whole lot of value behind much of it. Nine featurettes range from one minute to six, covering a variety of light topics. There’s nearly a half-hour worth of deleted scenes and the obligatory gag reel. Further demonstrating how much “fun” everyone was having improvising on set, there are a few “line-o-rama” reels, featuring various alternate line readings.
Warner Bros.’ Blu-ray Combo Pack includes Get Hard on standard DVD as well as a downloadable Digital HD copy.