“The Upside” Review

I partially knew what I was in for with a film like The Upside. Prepared for the most milquetoast of melodrama, I grabbed a coffee and sat back hoping to be won over by the chemistry of Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston. The coffee was a mistake as I found myself so baffled by the poor filmmaking layered on top of banal laughs and hokey drama that I wondered why the rest of the audiences seemed to be rolling with laughter. I wish I had whatever they were drinking. Continue reading ““The Upside” Review”

“Get Hard” Review

Get Hard is the Hart/Ferrel buddy picture that can’t decide if it wants to be Trading Places or Stir Crazy. It is this inconsistency with tone – coupled with a heaping helping of racist/stereotype gags – that prevents this movie from showcasing the true comedic talent of its two leads. It’s a bitter shame considering that Kevin Hart and Will Ferrel have a likable dynamic. You have to squint in between all the bits that end up being more duds than smiles, but it is present. They’re both quick on the draw with the comedy and can hold their own in any improv scene. But when thrown such a lackluster bone as Get Hard, it’s easy to miss.

The setup is simple enough. Will Ferrel plays a corporate hedge fund manager that is living the pompous and oblivious life of a wealthy elite. He has a large house, a hot wife who loves him for his money and Mexican landscapers that put up with his offensive nature for money. Kevin Hart plays a struggling father with small car wash business, desperate to elevate his daughter into a safer school. He’s not exactly poor, but still hasn’t reached that comfy level of the lower-middle class. The two characters meet within a parking garage where the interaction proceeds about as you’d expect for a rich white guy and decent black man. It isn’t until Ferrel is caught by authorities for illegal practices with managing funds that he comes to Hart, begging and pleading for help in how it wasn’t him who committed these crimes.

The problem is that the immediate issue of clearing Ferrel’s name is not addressed. The two just assume that prison is inevitable. So instead of solving the crime – which actually takes about two minutes once they reach that point – Hart spends the majority of the movie training Ferrel for prison. The whole joke of this premise is that Hart doesn’t actually know anything about prison, drawing most of his knowledge from his imprisoned cousins and prison movies, but Ferrel assumes he does based on his limited knowledge of African-Americans. And the stereotypes fly as the two actors are forced to fill time in a script that wasn’t very well-thought.

I really want the Hart/Ferrel dynamic to work, but it’s hard to find the funny when these two are reduced to the most amateur of comedy writing. Believing that the prison sentence will lead to rape, Hart takes Ferrel on a field trip to a gay part of town where he can practice performing oral sex on a man. While Ferrel has one of his most awkward encounters with genitalia in a bathroom, Hart nervously squirms in his chair while a gay guy tries to pick him up. I suppose these two scenes are supposed to be funny because penises are shocking and gays are perverts.

But Get Hard doesn’t just apply stereotypes to homosexuals. The duo visit a white supremacist meeting place which, of course, is a biker bar of neo-Nazis with more hair on their chins than heads. The latino characters are all house workers and landscapers with mannerisms more quirky than relatable. The only twist comes with a black gang that are comically well-informed of the financial market. Outside of their favorite topic, they’re still chugging 40’s and smoking weed while threatening to bust caps into rear ends. With so many cartoonishly savage character running amok, I could just barely root for Hart and Ferrel on the basis that they’re too dim to be evil.

And why put the movie in a box so small? I could sense by the world building that there was something relevant and timely to this setup. Why not take a stab at finding more humor in such a separation of the rich and poor than just phoning in this corporate mystery/prison training story? I don’t why I thought the movie could be something more. Perhaps it was just out of the anger from such tired devices and watered down commentary on racism.

I once again find myself frustrated with Kevin Hart for being a solid comedic actor trapped in terrible script. The man has chemistry as seen in his previous buddy pictures, Ride Along and The Wedding Ringer. And while those scripts were tired scenarios for a buddy comedy, Get Hard is a massive misfire for both Hart and Ferrel. I did find their pairing amusing as when the two end up fighting some corporate goons and when Hart regales Ferrel with a fictional tale of his past ripped from Boyz in da Hood. But for every smile generated from those scenes, there’s twice as many sighs for the gags that fall straight to the bottom. They must have known they were in a bad movie once Will Ferrel has to don the apparel of Lil’ Wayne in a black neighborhood. At least the two of them seem to be having some fun together even if we’re not.