“Get Hard” may be propelled to a box office win by the controversy surrounding its comedic treatment of race and incarceration, but it’s not winning over very many critics.
As of Thursday, the comedy starring Will Ferrell as a rich executive who hires poor Kevin Hart to train him for prison has been declared “rotten” on Rotten Tomatoes with just a 28 percent approval rating from 54 critics counted so far.
TheWrap‘s Inkoo Kang questioned whether the “bro-comedy” baton being passed between Ferrell and Hart in this R-rated comedy is “something anyone should have or want in the first place,” but didn’t seem to hate it as much as others did.
“There’s a daring comedy somewhere inside writer Etan Cohen’s (“Tropic Thunder”) directorial debut, which simultaneously trivializes and solemnizes the prospect of prison rape,” Kang wrote in her review. “Ferrell and Hart don’t bring anything that we haven’t seen from them before, but they create a bouncy, playfully defiant rapport. It’s promising enough that you wish they could have made a movie in which they’re just making us laugh, instead of leaving us wondering how every third scene could be made less offensive.”
Other critics weren’t so kind to the film, which divided audiences at its SXSW premiere earlier this month. In fact, some of them — like the following 10 critics — flat-out hated it.
Vanity Fair critic Eric D. Snider:
“The central joke is this: Hey, did you know that in prison, there is a lot of rape? I don’t mean to suggest that a comedy about a scared rich dude heading for state prison shouldn’t address the subject of prison rape, or even joke about it. Honestly, it would be more conspicuous not to mention it. But there are funnier ways to do it than by merely repeating ‘You’re going to get raped’ over and over.”
New York Daily News critic Joe Neumaier:
“‘Get Hard’ isn’t edgy enough to be offensive or witty enough to be challenging. It’s just dumb. This forced comedy received accusations of racism and homophobia from audience members and a critic after it screened earlier this month at the South by Southwest fest. And indeed the movie makes ‘The Interview’ look like genius by comparison.”
Entertainment Weekly critic Chris Nashawaty:
“If the idea of a dorky white guy asking a manic black guy to get him hard makes you roll around on the floor in hysterics, you’re in luck. Because the new Will Ferrell–Kevin Hart comedy recycles that same Wildean bit of that’s-what-she-said wordplay about a thousand times. I’ll just come right out and say it: ‘Get Hard’ is not only a bad movie but a profoundly wasted opportunity.”
Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers:
“It lets us see the sweat, the backbreaking effort of trying to breathe life into a farce based on racial and gay stereotyping. These two comic wizards huff and puff to keep the laughs airborne. But there’s no helium in this balloon. It’s one joke stretched beyond endurance. The joke being that James thinks Darnell has done time because he’s black, but Darnell is really a straight-ass family man with no record. Burn.”
The Playlist critic Drew Taylor:
“It’s an absolutely horrible, amateurishly assembled comedy that is more offensive than just about anything we’ve seen lately, a non-stop parade of racist, homophobic bile that would be bad enough from any comedian, but coming out of Ferrell and Hart has the effect of watching a childhood hero committing some horrible act.”
Forbes critic Scott Mendelson:
“Whether or not you find the material offensive, and I will admit that reading about the would-be controversy stemming from the film’s SXSW premiere probably preemptively had [m]e prepared to dissect the would-be controversial humor, the fact remains that much of it just isn’t funny.
JoBlo critic Chris Bumbray:
“It’s definitely not at all successful, but it’ll probably do OK at the box office due to goodwill towards the two leads, and then be quickly forgotten. It’s doubtful that either Hart or Ferrell’s fans are going to get much out of this, and it’ll likely make their pairing a one-and-done kind of thing, which is certainly for the best. I shudder at the thought of a ‘Get Harder.'”
The Dissolve critic Nathan Rabin:
“As ‘Tropic Thunder’ and ‘Idiocracy’ proved, funny excuses just about anything, but ‘Get Hard’ desperately strains for bad-taste laughs it never comes close to earning. The deathly silence doomed to haunt theaters during ‘Get Hard’ allows audiences far too much time to think about its problematic attitudes toward race, gender, sexuality and class, as well as its borderline-nonsensical plot. Nobody’s going to be distracted by laughter.”
Empire critic Dan Jolin:
“‘Get Hard’ gives the initial impression of having a timely social conscience. Yet, despite retaining a sliver of anti-one-percenter sentiment, it’s a movie 99 percent concerned with dick jokes. It soon becomes intolerably uncomfortable. Especially as, like most of the jokes in ‘Get Hard’ from the title itself onwards, they’re rarely clever enough to forgive.”
Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips:
“It’s a mystery why two bona fide comic stars, working very, very hard to keep this thing from tanking, couldn’t pressure their collaborators for another rewrite or three. It’s a mystery why first-time feature director Etan Cohen, a talented screenwriter (‘Idiocracy,’ ‘Tropic Thunder’), couldn’t figure out how to film the simplest dialogue exchanges or the violence. Hobbled by a nervous, insecure editing rhythm and a total lack of slapstick finesse, ‘Get Hard’ represents a matchup of form and content that does the people on screen no favors.”