Audiences may be divided over whether this comedy crosses the line as it looks for laughs in racism and homophobia, but the cast and crew just manage to keep the movie's heart in the right place. At its core, this is another enjoyable bromance that uses cheap gags to keep the audience chuckling awkwardly. And even if the one joke requires a certain level of gay fear, the film has enough spark and personality to poke fun at what is clearly depicted as narrow-minded paranoia.
It opens in a ludicrously expansive Bel Air mansion, where naive investor James (Will Ferrell) lives with his shark-like fiancee Alissa (Alison Brie), daughter of his boss Martin (Craig T. Nelson). Then as he's performing a duet with John Mayer at his engagement party, the feds swoop in and arrest James for embezzlement. But his innocent plea is ignored, and the judge throws the book at him, sentencing him to 10 years at the notorious San Quentin Penitentiary. With 30 days before he has to report to jail, James hires his car valet Darnell (Kevin Hart) to toughen him up for life behind bars, assuming that because he's black Darnell must surely know something about prison life. Darnell needs the cash, so he plays along, turning to his gang-member cousin Russell (Tip "T.I." Harris) for some street cred.
The script adds some clever texture in Darnell's home life with his no-nonsense wife (Dickerson), who is bemused by the fact that her nice-guy husband is pretending to be a seasoned criminal. Like her, the audience is waiting for the sham to collapse hilariously around him, but the screenplay veers off in some unexpected directions that both increase the tension and push the humour closer to the edge. Even so, the movie's core issue is the gaping divide between obscene Westside wealth and the relative economic struggle in South Central. Although director Etan Cohen never takes any of this too seriously, milking every situation for maximum absurdity.
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