Apart from having an admittedly good idea and potential, this comedy squanders any chance of pushing the ‘Trading Places’ like style to hilarious effect. It flatly relies on quite offensive jokes and stereotyped humour to cash in on the audience you’d expect would love this kind of brain dead movie making.
James King (Will Ferrell) is rich, successful and engaged to be married to his boss’ daughter, Alissa (Alison Brie). His life goes from riches to rags when King is arrested for fraud and embezzlement, something he strongly denies. He soon has to turn to car washer and devoting dad Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart), as he thinks he’s a previous convict that can help him beef up and train to survive in maximum security prison.
It’s clearly a film running around the comedy playground giggling at the chance to use its title to childishly joke in concerns of getting hard and so on and so forth. The film isn’t truly terrible, it did in fact make me chuckle or laugh a few times but it’s not gut bustingly funny and not even overly funny to be honest. It drops any smart hope of being clever in class swapping story to run amok in racist and homophobic trash.
Etan Cohen has his debut here as director and doesn’t really prove to be a talent to look out for. It’s a comedy directed as most American comedies are and he brings no style to a film that sits back to let Hart and Ferrell do their thing. The only shining moment in directorial terms is the prison riot mock up, captured in strobe lighting flashes making it more funny and more pulsating. It’s a simply built movie for simply built minds.
The writing isn’t even much better, racist digs and over the top reactions filling the script to breaking point and it’s so obvious that the screenplay would have been bare bones to let its stars improv lines as much as they love to do. The plot itself is obvious from the outset and I’m sure that’s not just for me, everyone would get it before the film reaches ten, fifteen minutes in. There isn’t really any depth to the narrative or the characters, the film goes by quickly to be fair but it isn’t a well formed execution of what could have been a neat idea.
The music is like most U.S comedies, score sits back to let contemporary songs do the talking. Charlie XCX can be rolling in more cash as it seems her sounds boom, clap across the speakers more than other artists. The soundtrack is mostly pop and urban rap to work with the gangster side of proceedings that King ends up in. It clearly works though as the songs are energetic, tell their story along with the film and are recognisable aiding the audience to engage with the film more.
Will Ferrell sticks to the expected curly haired shtick but it always works and his fan-base won’t be disappointed, as he does OTT well and always excels in dumb acting. Kevin Hart is another big American actor that has a shtick to rely on now but he too does it well enough that you can’t groan too much about it if you’re seeing this movie. They both have a good chemistry and bounce off each other well. Hart’s tennis court scenario is brilliant and Ferrell’s jail time slurs are actually really funny. Alison Brie, for my sake could have been in it more but she portrays the vain gold digging fiance to unlikable levels that suits her character and Brie looks mighty fine doing it.
Lazy and dumb, this doesn’t achieve anything of note and the trailer says all it needs to. If you love or like Ferrell and Hart then you will enjoy it but if not then you’ll just about get by this wasted movie. It faintly ticks the comedy box with a blunt pencil, one you’d expect King to keister.