Nowadays when we hear “new Kevin Hart” film we expect the same serving of what we’ve been continuously given to add to the mix of routine features that get blended together in our heads. But perhaps no one’s tried putting him in the straight man’s chair. Not to say that he’s there the whole time in this film, but he and Will Ferrell take turns equally, and it’s magical.
Hart plays the role of Darnell–a family man desperate to get enough money to buy a house in a better area to benefit his family’s well-being. He is hired by James (Ferrell), a wimpy stock trader who is about to go to prison for 10 years, to prepare him for life behind bars. The catch is that James thinks Darnell is an ex-con–not because Darnell told him that, but because James just assumed.
Hilarity ensues as Ferrell taps a little into Buddy the Elf and becomes clueless as ever (which makes you wonder how he became partner at a brokerage firm), and Hart balances him out by playing the “goofy straight-man”–perhaps a comedic invention that he had already perfected and has been waiting to try out. The two play off of each other brilliantly and the chemistry between them is phenomenal.
Some parts are dragged out slightly–especially in the beginning–but the comedic pace is steady and consistent and you don’t really ever feel like their fishing for material. There are a couple of “how was that possible?” moments, but it’s a farce so that’s expected.
The script is good. Though there is a lot of obvious improv–but not too much. There’s the typical formulaic deception by one of the characters–with Darnell leading James to believe that he’s an ex-con–but it’s really minor and never exploited for an easy plot twist.
The true brilliance behind this film is that neither actor tries upstaging the other. They are both comfortable sitting back and letting the other take the stage when necessary. Let’s hope that more filmmakers try and cash in on their natural rapport.