This week, Cineast offers previews of the new movies Get Hard, Home and Serena.
Maybe after a long winter of controversy and bitterness surrounding questions of lingering racial animosity in the U.S. it’s time to loosen up and laugh about it all. In Get Hard, Will Ferrell plays James King, a wealthy white man who has been found guilty of fraud and is scheduled to report to do hard time in prison. Reflecting his inexperience with black culture and making standard white assumptions about black men, King mistakes diminutive, middle-class black man Darnell Williams, played by Kevin Hart, for a street-wise “thug” who can help him “get hard” in advance of his impending incarceration. Despite his own lack of experience in gangs and prison, Williams decides to take advantage of King’s prejudice and devises a curriculum of sorts to try to train King in the ways of menace and hostility. This clever set-up, along with the comedic talents of Ferrell and Hart, promise to make this an entertaining film, as well as an interesting exposure and lampooning of the engrained attitudes that many still hold about black men.
Just in time for the school holiday, Home is an animated film for the whole family. Oh is a misfit on his home planet, on the run, and trying to hide out on Earth. Of course, he’s weird looking but cute as a button—all ready for his conversion into a plush toy, undoubtedly coming soon to a burger joint near you. He befriends a young lady named Tip, who has a cute cuddly cat that is ready-made to become a cute, cuddly doll to get added to the box with the burger and fries. Some shades of E.T. here, although the Reese’s Pieces product placement doesn’t appear to be involved. And in Home, Oh shows up already speaking only slightly garbled English—that way he can help make jokes, and try to explain to Tip where he’s from and what he’s trying to do—undoubtedly less nerve-wracking for the kiddies. As in E.T., though, levitating does play a major role, but with a flying car substituting for the flying bicycle. Featuring the voices of Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez, and Rihanna.
Something seems to be off when a historical drama like Serena comes to the screen with the clarity of digital cinema—if only because we need the grain and flicker of film to help us suspend our disbelief and obscure the obvious fakery on the screen. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence populate Serena’s Depression-era North Carolina, but the crystal-clear picture somehow fails to allow them to inhabit the time period. It doesn’t help that their accents sound like they learned how to speak Southern from British vocal coaches.