Will Ferrell

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures

“Get Hard” takes a tried-and-true premise, one where a satisfied, upper-class weakling is sentenced to a long stint in prison, and drives it mercilessly into the ground. Everything about this mediocre comedy is formulaic and predictable, offering no clever twists or any intrigue. The characters are unlikeable, unrelatable caricatures. The humor in this film is dominated by homophobic jokes, race puns and other “edgy” comedic bits that ceased being edgy long ago. Leading men Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart clearly deserve better than this unfunny buddy-comedy.

After millionaire stock broker James King (Ferrell) is wrongly nailed for fraud and sentenced to 10 years in maximum security prison, he is given a month to get his affairs in order. A pampered businessman and overall weakling, James knows that being thrown in prison is a death sentence. He runs in Darrell Lewis (Hart), a car-washer who is trying to raise funds to move his family to a better neighborhood. Darrell, who falsely tells James that he’s been to prison, proposes a deal: he will toughen James up in exchange for the money he needs. Together, the two attempt to prepare James while also trying to figure out who framed him in the first place.

One fatally weak aspect of the film is the lackluster script, which offers little ingenuity. It never tries anything new and fails to stand out in any fashion. The plot’s focus is all over the place, as the characters develop new motivations every twenty minutes. At first, Darrell is trying to toughen up James. Then, seeing it as a lost cause, he decides to tutor him on how to simply “submit” himself to other inmates. After that bit goes nowhere, they finally decide to find out who framed James to clear his name. It seems the screenwriters thought up every plot point that could emerge from the premise and jammed them all together.

Ferrell does his best with the material, and for the most part his delivery is pretty solid. His character is supposed to be unlikeable when he is introduced, but he’s so stuck-up and heinous that it becomes really difficult to sympathize with him and want him to succeed. Hart’s character is extremely more relatable, and he carries the comedic weight throughout the film. If handed a better script, Hart would have really shined. Here, he is just sadly wasted.

To its credit, the movie starts off funny, but then loses steam as it starts to recycle the same jokes. The material sticks to a slim variety of primarily sexual and racial jokes, which all feel played-out and half-heartedly written. These are the jokes that numerous R-rated comedies have already made, and “Get Hard” just leafs through the best of the bunch and then dumbs them down even further.

“Get Hard” doesn’t try to put a new spin on the “survive prison” comedy. The script just packs the story with every scenario that can be extracted from the premise, leaving the plot aimless. The talented cast is given nothing good to work with, forcing them to resort to low-brow, offensive gags that have already been done to death. Audiences may have been excited for the interesting opportunities that teaming Hart with Ferrell could have inspired, but they are in for a rude, unfunny awakening.

Director: Etan Cohen

  • Genre: Comedy
  • Runtime: 100 minutes
  • Rating: 3/10 Pimped-out Will Ferrells

Austin Film Fest: Will Ferrell headlines "Breaking Bad" creator's unproduced script reading

Sunday afternoon, hundreds of Austin Film Festival attendees lined up at Seventh and Congress streets, not for a big film premiere at the Paramount, but for a live reading of an unproduced screenplay at the theater’s smaller counterpart, the State. Why all the fuss? Well, for one, that screenplay, “2-Face,” was written by “Breaking Bad” mastermind Vince Gilligan, its reading was directed by “Looper” director Rian Johnson and its lead character was played by Will Ferrell. 

Ferrell was joined onstage by a sprawling cast including Johnson, — reading the stage directions — Thomas Haden Church, Linda Cardellini, Billy Burke and, in a surprise that got the biggest applause of the entire event, Giancarlo Esposito — “Breaking Bad's” Gus.

In Gilligan’s modern Jekyll and Hyde tale, Ferrell read the part of Earl, a repugnant Civil War re-enactor with a brutal racist streak. When the sun went down, he turned into Rodeo Bob, a gentle, sophisticated alter ego who claimed to be visiting from the future, where he lived in a dome on the moon. Haden Church played Boots, Earl’s equally bigoted comrade-in-arms, and Cardellini read the part of Holly, Earl’s long-suffering wife.

But “2-Face's” secret protagonist is a young, African-American doctor named Malcolm, portrayed on stage by “Treme's” Rob Brown. Seated to the far side of the stage despite his prominence in the script, Brown gave a charismatic performance, clearly hungry to snag the spotlight with Ferrell from several seats away. Just as entertaining as Brown’s performance was watching him and Esposito — hilarious and physical in his own right — react to some of the script’s racially charged material with mock outrage.

Ferrell certainly knows how to deliver a joke, and Gilligan’s tactile, moody screenplay gives him loads to work with, with plenty of sharp dialogue and memorably funny moments throughout the script. “2-Face” becomes increasingly dramatic as it goes on, but never loses its sense of humor, even as the characters are faced with dramatic, complex conflicts, and closes on a hopeful, dramatically satisfying note. The script shares a few thematic concerns with “Breaking Bad,” especially man’s capacity to deny his true nature and the duality of identity.

Before the reading, Gilligan revealed to the audience that he’s been working on “2-Face” for 23 years. Even so, the racially themed comedy remains sharp and relevant today, and the Austin Film Fest assembled quite a cast to honor the work of one of its most esteemed guests.

Panel: Funny or Die: Future of Comedy & Everything Else

The minds behind Funny or Die (sans Will Ferrell and Adam McKay) hosted a panel at SXSW Interactive on Sunday to discuss how the site started, their celebrity collaborations, and an upcoming series, First Dates.

Fuse’s Funny or Die presents Billy on the Streets' Billy Eichner played the role of moderator for the minds behind Funny or Die. Eichner co-created and hosts the show, where he ambushes strangers on the streets of New York City with pop culture trivia and a chance to win cash. The panel’s presenters were creative director Andrew Steele, CEO Dick Glover, president of production Mike Farrah, actor Seth Morris, and vice president of marketing Patrick Starzan.

Funny or Die launched without any employees with the infamous video The Landlord featuring Will Ferrell and co-creator of Funny or Die Adam McKay’s daughter. Once Ferrell, McKay and their team realized they could make a market out of creative high quality comedy videos on the internet, they slowly added employees and created a staff of 73 people with offices in Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and New York.

“We have found that the internet responds well to cats and boobs but we try not to do lowbrow comedy, and instead stick with the standards from Saturday Night Live to keep up the zeitgeist that is Funny or Die now,” Steele said.

Funny or Die makes 20-25 original videos every month, many of which star celebrities and have celebrity cameos. Steele said that while celebrities are used to the discouraging processes of production and development in Hollywood films and shows, when they come to Funny or Die, they have a virtually risk-free chance to make something out of their own ideas.

“There’s really no risk for celebrities because it’s not a major motion picture, if it fails, who cares?” Glover said. “It’s just a shitty internet video, so it’s not that bad if it fails but if it goes viral that’s great.”

Morris explained that celebrities collaborate with Funny or Die because the company is more than willing to help them create videos they’ll be happy and excited about.

“When Will and Adam started the site, they wanted it to be a sort of playground for them and their friends to create videos out of their ideas,” Morris said.

Glover said that the company doesn’t have a specific model for creating videos.

“We’re not looking to make the next Stars Wars, we want to feature people we love and doing things that make us laugh, like Tim and Eric,” Glover said.

The panel presented Seth Morris’ new Funny or Die series, First Dates, where the main character, Toby Harris, jumps back into the dating scene after a relationship ends and finds himself on the worst first date ever...over and over again.

 

Dreamworks Animation, more or less built on the mediocre “Shrek” franchise, has been staging something of a renaissance since those films wrapped up. First, 2008’s “Kung Fu Panda” was a charming comeback for the studio, and this year’s “How To Train Your Dragon” and now, “Megamind,” have solidified them as a legitimate opponent to the animation powerhouse that is Pixar Animation Studios.

A legitimately fun twist on superhero lore, “Megamind’s” titular character (voiced by Will Ferrell) becomes engulfed in an existential crisis after defeating his arch-nemesis, superhero Metro Man (voiced by Brad Pitt) and finding himself with no counterpoint to his lighthearted brand of diabolical evil. However, when a worse threat emerges, Megamind finds himself becoming the very thing he’d tried to destroy.

The story is pretty predictable and basic, and a lot of the same ground was tread by this summer’s “Despicable Me.” However, where that film was cavity-inducing sweet, “Megamind” goes for as many laughs as possible, and nails most of them. While the humor tends to skew toward the kids in the audience, a few hilariously wry moments are thrown in for the older crowd, especially an extended Marlon Brando parody that never stops being funny.

The film is beautifully animated, and the 3-D is marvelously used, with very few gimmicky or obnoxious shots. Ferrell’s typically boisterous delivery fits the material to a tee, and the rest of the cast ranges from perfectly suited (Brad Pitt’s Metro Man) to awkward but effective (Tina Fey’s Lois Lane-esque reporter).

In the end, “Megamind” is a surprisingly funny and engrossing film, putting some entertaining twists on superhero archetypes and earning its handful of sentimental moments. The predictable story drags the whole thing down, but the presentation is so charming and the characters so enjoyable that it barely matters.