GET HARD It’s funny, you see, because he’s white.

WILL FERRELL vehicles have become the most boring Choose Your Own Adventure stories ever. You're essentially given two options: Follow a bloviating egotist cut down to size via failure and physical abuse, or follow a nebbish gent forced to grow a sack via failure and physical abuse. Pick a path, throw in some gay panic and jokey cultural insensitivity, and voila: instant comedy.

Ferrell opts for the second option in Get Hard, playing a nebbish financial exec falsely convicted of embezzlement and facing 10 years in San Quentin. To prepare himself for life on the inside, he hires the owner of his firm's in-house car service (Kevin Hart), assuming that because he's black, he's been locked up.

In more thoughtful hands, this would've been the basis for some commentary on class and race-based inequality. Instead, we get jokes about keistering weapons, endless slapstick, and one useless sequence where Ferrell tries to suck a stranger's dick. Don't worry! He doesn't do it! Whew! No homo, right?!?

Beyond its formulaic roots, Get Hard feels exactly like the blatant attempt it is to attract new audiences to Ferrell and Hart. In that respect, only Hart comes out ahead. Hart has the funniest scenes here, including a brilliant set piece where he bounces between three different convict personas to give Ferrell a taste of time in the Yard.

I've also apparently been underestimating the acting talents of T.I.! The Atlanta rapper's few minutes of screentime—he plays the leader of an LA gang that Ferrell tries to join for protection—slice through the movie's bloated second act with a casual but steely air. T.I.'s performance is a double-edged sword, however: It also reveals just how desperately the rest of Get Hard could have used a similarly acidic and sinister edge.