Kevin Hart’s What Now?


3 out of 4 stars

Having worked his way to becoming one of the bar-none funniest comics in Hollywood, Kevin Hart seems a fine person to ask the film’s titular question: “What now?”

The answer, apparently, was to sell out a whole football stadium in the midst of a yearlong world tour — and film the standup routine.

Full disclosure: I’m not the target audience for this film. I haven’t watched a standup concert film since “Eddie Murphy Raw,” released nearly 30 years ago. And I prefer my comedy much closer to PG than the well-deserved R-rating “Kevin Hart: What Now?” garners in its 96-minute running time.

So why did I have such a good time viewing this film?

For starters, the filmmakers wisely surprise viewers with an introduction that seems to belong to another genre entirely, evoking the better elements of 2013 comedy “This Is The End” (in which Hart briefly appears). Let’s just say fans of James Bond and Marvel Studios movies will get a kick out of the opening credits.

It’s a genius move that not only eases audiences that may be accustomed to more standard cinema fare into the concert film experience, but it also primes them for the outrageous brand of humor that Hart will bring to his routine.

And does he bring it. Sure, his subject matter is drawn from the banal: home life, his kids, taking the trash out. But he amps it up to fit his outsized onstage/onscreen persona.

At least I HOPE it’s just a persona. I really hope he wouldn’t actually say that to his lady if she were attacked by a … oh wait, I shouldn’t give away the punchline.

Anyway, Hart effortlessly flows from the banal to the profane and weird. For instance, for an extended sequence, he wonders aloud if he could stay with a woman missing a key body part. It’s not what you’re thinking, but it’s funny as heck.

Part of Hart’s charm is that he doesn’t mind looking like a bit of a heel for the sake of his comedy. He dishes equal measures of commentary on his family members and his own role as a dad, fiancé and son — and he’s usually the one who looks the worst by the end of the roasting. It’s refreshing how un-mean-spirited his comedy is in spite of its raunch.

Perhaps it’s the huge setting in Lincoln Financial Field in Hart’s hometown of Philadelphia, or perhaps this is an example of one of the finest comics putting on a clinic on standup comedy. But Hart doesn’t rely on the standup crutch of picking on audience members. Nor does his routine make excessive use of the massive screens behind him onstage. When he does either, it’s minimal and perfectly timed.

If I have a quibble with this film and others of its genre, it’s the frequent cutaways to laughing audience members. I know it’s necessary, if only to get a little visual variety to forestall boredom, but it’s such a trope that it threatens to become its own ennui for the eye.

So again, in another genius move by the filmmakers, it’s one of these shots that actually draws one of the show’s biggest laughs when Hart gets just a little too real for one viewer.

I’m not going to run out to view this sort of film again anytime soon. Honestly, I think I may have seen one of the best and am good for another nearly 30 years.


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