PHOTO COURTESY OF PATTI PERRET
One look at the advertisements of Get Hard and it’s easy to see it as a racist attempt at comedy and a vehicle for Kevin Hart to sell out as a comedian. That would be an unfair assumption.
Will Farrell’s James has summed up the essence of the film: “Thank God we’re back in the safety of Crenshaw.” This statement was uttered after James had an encounter with some white supremacists that had a problem with his Jewish curls.
Writers Jay Martel, Ian Roberts, and Etan Cohen (with direction from Cohen), take an affluent Wall Street white guy, James, accuse him of a Bernie Madoff-type scam, then give him 30 days before he has to report to San Quentin Maximum State Prison. So, what does James do? He uses his white ignorance that all black men have been in prison and enlists Darnell (Hart) to help him prepare for the future. Darnell, who has never been arrested, comes up with a 12-step plan to get James prison-ready. What ensues are hijinks of the racist variety and a story about a grown man who just wants to belong to a group — any group.
Even though Get Hard is funny, it makes a bold statement on race relations and classism. Right now, race is a hot-button issue with the numerous reports of white police brutality against black suspects and innocents. To call a spade a spade, our black men are being targeted in larger numbers by a police force that is supposed to be sworn to protect and serve. In Get Hard, the writers turn the tables around on the white population that sits back and thinks that racism doesn’t exist. Cohen even makes sure his audience knows from the beginning that this film is just an avenue for social commentary.
In the opening credits, Cohen juxtaposes upper-and lower-class families in showing how they prepare for their day. James wakes to soft music and a hot fiancé. Darnell’s morning routine involves sharing a bathroom sink with his wife, Rita (Edwina Findley Dickerson), and daughter, Makayla (Ariana Neal). Darnell then drives in a beat-up truck to manage his business. At Wealthrop Mutual Fund, James works on the top floor of the building and Darnell works underground washing the employee cars.
The class gap is quite large between James and Darnell. Then again, life always has a way of throwing us curve balls so that we can walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. James gets to experience a taste of what it’s like to be black in America. He even gets attacked by white supremacists. But, it’s within the Crenshaw Kings, headed by Darnell’s cousin, Russell (T.I. “Tip” Harris), that James finds unconditional love and acceptance.
Go figure, a white man has to go to the mean streets of L.A. to find friendship. Which begs to show a different side of the African-American community, in that, we aren’t all gang bangers destined for prison or teen motherhood. We have great hearts and we tend to be more understanding of differences, using centuries of intolerance for our skin color as a guide.
That said, Get Hard gets a bit offensive. Certainly, everyone has seen the advertisements with James dressed in his “home boy” get-up and he’s told that it would have been better just to slap on a black face Vaudeville style. Likewise, Hispanics and the gay community are all fair game in this film. However, Get Hard is still a funny film and worth at least one watch. With all of the news reports of violent racial crimes, it’s good to take a break and laugh at ourselves and the ignorance of others. It makes the real world a bit easier to stomach.