On the eve of the release of his latest comedy Get Hard, actor Will Ferrell has been defending the movie against accusations of racism and homophobia, arguing that the controversial jokes are intended to lampoon America’s elite.

Get Hard’s plot concerns a wealthy businessman, played by Ferrell, who hires a black employee (Kevin Hart) in order to help him mentally prepare for a prison stretch. Many critics have pulled it up as being offensive in its themes, and have used some of the film’s jokes as illustration of that.

Will Ferrell
Will Ferrell shooting 'Get Hard' back in July 2014

Speaking in defence of the movie to Radar magazine, Ferrell said that the theme was intended to satirise the narrow-minded outlook of America’s wealthiest. “With all due respect to anyone who went to Harvard, including our director [Etan Cohen], I was thinking, “Harvard a**hole”,” he said.

“As much as my character knows about financial dealings and how to make a lot of money, he really is completely ignorant about how the rest of the world works.” Cohen, the director, also defended the movie after a South By Southwest movie-goer described Get Hard as “racist as f***”.

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“The truth was that was a really delicate balance,” Cohen argued. “We wanted to think about this stuff and think about the stereotypes but not go too far where comedy doesn't deserve to go. We were making very provocative jokes, and they were not sure where we were coming from. But when they saw that the comedy was at Will's expense, it was one of the best audiences we've ever had.”

With reference to current race relations in America, Ferrell admitted to the New York Daily News that “it’s a vulgar comedy and really goes for it. But at the same time, we’re getting to comment on what’s going on and it could not be more timely for this movie to come out.”

Get Hard is released in theaters nationwide on March 27th, and has so far received pretty negative reviews from critics. At the time of writing, it holds a lowly 30% approval rating on the site Metacritic, which compiles and averages critic and user verdicts.

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