Entertainment & Arts

Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart laugh off Get Hard racism claims

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Media captionGet Hard: stereotyping or satire?

Critics have labelled the new Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart movie Get Hard racist and homophobic. But the comedians say those critics are missing the point of the social satire.

On the contrary, they say, the film is designed to mirror society, to make people laugh at and possibly reconsider their own biases.

In Get Hard, Ferrell stars as a privileged, white hedge fund manager living a life of extreme luxury with a gorgeous fiancee - until he is falsely convicted of fraud.

Facing 10 years in San Quentin prison, Ferrell hires Kevin Hart's character Darnell - the man who washes his car at the office parking lot - to teach him to harden up before he reports to prison in 30 days.

Ferrell's character James assumes Darnell has done time because he's black.

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Image caption Will Ferrell's character James (front) hires Kevin Hart's character Darnell to teach him to harden up

King is terrified that he will be raped in prison and the gags surrounding that fear in the movie have irked some critics, who say they're homophobic and display "gay panic".

Ferrell says that's not fair. "For someone who's just found out they're going to be incarcerated, sexual assault would be on their mind because it exists.

"All we're doing as comedians is holding up a mirror to things that actually exist out there."

The movie opens in a US increasingly divided by wealth and racial inequality.

The film highlights economic disparity from the start, intercutting images of James' mansion and servants with shots of Darnell trying to get his daughter to school safely in a rough neighbourhood.

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Image caption The film mocks the bankers and brokers of Wall Street who are oblivious to the "real" world

As James' personal Capoeira instructor guides him through lessons in the Brazilian martial art, his gardeners tend his perfectly manicured lawn.

Darnell, meanwhile, struggles to convince a predatory lender to prey on him so he can buy a house where his daughter doesn't have to go through a metal detector to get to school.

James' boss and future father-in-law boasts how he built the company from scratch through hard work - and an $8m (£5.4m) loan from his father.

Yet when Darnell asks James for an investment in his car washing business, James lectures him about the need to work hard to get ahead.

The message is clearly hammered home - the titans of Wall Street are the real gangsters, clueless in a world with yachts and where champagne flows along with contempt for those who aren't making it.

In one scene, Darnell knocks on James' car door to give him his keys. James, seeing a black man at the window - a man he sees everyday without noticing - screams and begs for his life. "Let me live," he begs Darnell.

'Living in a bubble'

Hart says everyone stereotypes, and that Get Hard aims to show people how idiotic it is to judge somebody by how they look.

"Stereotyping is something we are all guilty of. Judging a book by its cover and after you read that book you learn that there's so much more to it, and about it, than you thought by looking at it at first glance," Hart says.

"And that's what this is - you're looking at two guys who took a glance at each other and automatically assumed what that person is about.

"And then that road to friendship really shows: 'Oh my god, I'm wrong for assessing the situation the way I did. I'm wrong for living in a bubble and being naive.'

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Image caption Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart say they concentrate on the opinion of fans and ignore the critics

"People are going to watch it and America will have a different understanding and laugh at what we all are guilty of."

Hart, who is a prolific Twitter user with nearly 18 million followers, says ultimately the fans will decide if they like the movie or if they think it's offensive.

He thinks critics are often out of touch with audiences and that a few reviews and negative tweets get amplified to suddenly seeing headlines that Get Hard is "mired in controversy".

Ferrell says the media is "in search of salacious comments" to drive traffic to their web sites and create controversy where there is none.

'Out of step'

Alison Brie, who plays James' despicable fiancee, says she was surprised by some viewers' negative reactions to the movie.

"It's a comedy. It's a satire. It's meant to look at social behaviours and people using stereotypes to judge other people and turn that on its head and make fun of that.

"I don't think that we're condoning the behaviours of certain ignorant characters in the film, so I was surprised that people were offended. I think that's exactly the thing that we're making fun of."

Hart says critics are typically out of step when it comes to comedy and that film-makers and comedians only care what the fans think.

"Because we want the fans to be happy, we want the people that are actually paying to go see and support the film to walk away and go: 'Oh my God, I laughed, I got it, I got it. I got the plot.'

"'Oh it was grounded, it was real. It made me look at myself and I walked away with a positive mindset'."

Get Hard opens in the UK on 27 March.

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