Movie Review: Kevin Hart: What Now?

Kevin Hart in Universal Pictures’ "Kevin Hart: What Now?" Photo credit: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Kevin Hart in Universal Pictures’ “Kevin Hart: What Now?” Photo credit: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Kevin Hart now has three. Three what?

By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)

To answer the above, Kevin Hart: What Now? is the comedian’s third live stand-up feature-length film (his earlier projects are 2013’s Let Me Explain and 2011’s Laugh at My Pain). Along with a mere handful of others, the comedians who’ve made a successful foray into feature-length concert films are Eddie Murphy (1987’s Raw) and Richard Pryor (1983’s Here and Now, 1982’s Live on the Sunset Strip and the seminal 1979’s Live in Concert).

The burning question: Why produce a movie when cable TV is chock-a-block with so many stand-up specials? Perhaps because the comedy concert film stands as a welcome change from the recycled Hollywood detritus of prequels, sequels, remakes, reboots, etc. Perhaps because Hart is such a beloved, well-known entity from both his movies (i.e., Central Intelligence, Ride Along series, Think Like a Man series) and his earlier Comedy Central specials (Seriously Funny and I’m a Grown Little Man), he has a built-in, widespread following. Perhaps because instead of gambling on a possibly stale new comedy, moviegoers might choose to shell out some of their hard-earned dollars for a guaranteed good time. Or maybe, given these serious times, we’re all just dying to laugh.

Whatever the reasons, Kevin Hart: What Now? looks to be positioned as a hit. The worldwide tour that preceded the film generated record-breaking crowds, topped off by this filmed live show. With 53,000 avid fans in attendance, and with Hart himself representing the hometown-kid-made-good, this concert was the first of its kind to sell out an NFL stadium (Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles).

Kevin Hart: What Now? doesn’t disappoint. The laughs are rampant. Though we’ve seen this kind of humor before – self-deprecatory, observational, semi-autobiographic – Hart makes it all his own. He’s a brilliant physical comedian, exploiting his 5’4″ height whenever he gets the opportunity. (And somehow, that schtick never gets old.) He’s a strong actor, creating whole characters out of thin air utilizing nothing more than a facial expression, or a tic, or a tone of voice, or an attitude. And as a writer (he shares credit with Harry Ratchford and Joey Wells), his stories are simultaneously outrageous and relatable. The performer is unafraid to confess his very human and often less-than-admirable traits. But we relate; and in relating, we’re allowed to forgive both Hart and ourselves.

Kevin Hart n Universal Pictures’ "Kevin Hart: What Now?" Photo credit: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Kevin Hart in Universal Pictures’ “Kevin Hart: What Now?” Photo credit: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

The concert is bookended by a goofy sequence parodying the 007 films, specifically Casino. As director Tim Story states, “It made total sense as he already does a Bond bit with video clips at the start of his live shows.” Here, after a wild lampoon of the Bond series’ always over-the-top opening, we meet Hart as the nattily tuxedoed Agent 0054 (obviously playing into his 5’4″ height) who’s planning a heist at a tony casino with his argumentative gal pal, the beautiful, hair-tousled Halle Berry. (007 aficionados will remember that Berry played the Bond girl in 2002’s Die Another Day.) The plot is decidedly wacky, with Hart misbehaving at the gaming table as he treats an indignant Don Cheadle to a barrage of insults. Though the opening is fun, it cries out for judicious editing. Finally, after further backstage silliness, Hart is catapulted up into the air and on to the stage … and the live concert begins.

Directed by Leslie Small — who helmed Hart’s two previous concert films — the show moves at a rapid clip. With 88 cameras and a staff of over 400, the filmmakers created a laughapalooza out of the live concert that took place on August 30, 2015.

Kevin Hart in Universal Pictures’ "Kevin Hart: What Now?" Photo credit: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Kevin Hart in Universal Pictures’ “Kevin Hart: What Now?” Photo credit: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

The stagecraft bows to its star as 360-surround screens whimsically emphasize the ever-changing content. Such as the toilet scene (don’t ask). Or, as he carries on about being afraid in the dark, the lights black out except for a pinpoint spot on Hart, while multiple pairs of unknown creature eyes bear down on him.

Speaking of creatures, Hart dips into the animal kingdom with three separate stories. And every time, the bits are so screamingly funny, your own raucous laughter just may drown out some of Hart’s following witticisms.

Explaining the title, the comedic rockstar says, “The reason for What Now? is because that’s the question that I get the most. No matter what you do in life or what you achieve, everybody always wants to know what the next thing is. ‘Oh my God, you just won the Super Bowl! What now? Oh my goodness, you just got a gold medal at the Olympics! What now?’’ It comes up so much, and I feel like it’s a question that you should always have an answer for. After the success I had with Let Me Explain, I got it so much, I said, ‘That’s going to be the title of my next stand-up film.’

Hart swears that this concert film is his last one. He has hit the heights (pun unintended) and believes there’s nowhere to go from here. At least not in feature-film stand-up. But with movies, TV, comedy records and heaven-knows-what-else in his rosy future, it verges on the foolish to ask, “What Now?”

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Rating on a scale of 5 stand up guys: 4

Release date: October 14, 2016
Directed by: Leslie Small, Tim Story
Written by: Kevin Hart, Harry Ratchford, Joey Wells
Cast: Kevin Hart, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, David Meunier, Ed Helms
Running Time: 96 minutes
Rating: R

Here’s the trailer for “Kevin Hart: What Now?”

About Kimberly Gadette

Film critic Kimberly Gadette, born and raised in movie-centric L.A., believes celluloid may very well be a part of her DNA. Having received her BA and MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television, she spent many of her formative years as an actress (film, tv, commercials, stage) before she literally changed perspective, finding a whole new POV from the other side of the camera. You can find her last 500+ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/kimberly-gadette/). Other than taking the occasional side trip to Cannes or Sundance, you can find her at the movies ... sitting in the dark as usual.