If there was anyone in this world who can turn a bad week into a good one, it’s Kevin Hart. Kevin Hart is one of my all-time favorite stand-up comics, definitely up there with the rest of my top five. (In no particular order, it goes Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, Louie CK, DL Hughley, and the fifth one changes from day to day). I started watching his stand-up about 4 or 5 years ago, and have mad respect for his comedic timing, edge, fast-paced delivery, and relatable material. Plus, he just so happens to be from my hometown of Philadelphia, which I find really inspiring. And so I always look forward to the next time Kevin Hart takes the stage for another comedy tour. It’s something I wouldn’t want to miss, but does it live up to his other shows.
Like 2013’s Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, Kevin Hart: What Now? takes the comedy to the big screen Eddie Murphy style, complete with theatrical skits, guest stars, and a whole lot of laughs. It’s not a movie by traditional means, which means I’ll have to implement a new format for this review. I’ll cover the film in two parts: the first part will discuss the opening and closing skit, while the second one will discuss the meat of the film which is the stand-up.
Kevin Hart: What Now? is the second theatrical stand-up comedy movie and his fifth stand-up show overall, based on the 2015-16 “What Now Tour”. The “What Now Tour” hosted 168 shows across 127 cities worldwide within the span of 16 months. On August 30, 2015, Kevin Hart made history when he performed at the Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, making him the first comedian to headline a football stadium.
To increase the running time of the otherwise one hour movie, the film includes a skit before and after the show. This time it’s a spy film parody starring Kevin Hart, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Ed Helms, and David Meunier. In it, Kevin and Halle are attending an upscale Black Jack game with a large sum of money at stake. However, things don’t go as planned, and the duo gets tangled up in something a bit more deadly.
The skit runs about 20 minutes in total, so I’ll let you see the whole thing for yourself. Of course, there’s not much to ruin and the story goes in the exact direction you think it’ll go. Though that’s not the point. What matters is that this skit was an entertaining lead-in to the actual stand-up.
There are a few pretty good jokes in there and I love the interactions between the cast. As you’d expect, Hart has some of the best material in the entire skit, and I enjoyed his jokes. The part with Don Cheadle is probably the best part of the skit and Ed Helms had a few good quips. I also found the comedic chemistry among Hart and Berry to be very strong and fairly memorable. Meunier also puts on a really good performance throughout the story. Overall, everyone does a good to serviceable job for the time they’re on screen.
Perhaps the best aspect of the skit section is the visual effects. Everything about the skit and even parts of the stand-up section is eye-catching. The opening credit sequence was an excellent homage to the stylized openings of the 60’s and 70’s spy films. Great use of CG effects and even better use of color. Strange how when I think of this movie, I think of the colors blue, gold, black, and silver. Even the way the film was shot is excellent. Something about the way it smoothly pans over at times as well as the way shots are sliced together really puts you in the moment. Thumbs up to the editors and cinematographers who put a lot of love into this.
As for everything else, admittedly it’s nothing special. It more or less ties well into the concept of the tour, but not as well as the way Let Me Explain tied the skit in. It becomes jarring when they eventually try to transition to the show. Though it does eventually gain footing and ended on a great transition point into the Philadelphia show.
It’s definitely a more memorable skit than in Let Me Explain and even Laugh at My Pain. Though, I personally doubt it’s as funny as either skit.
Part 2: Stand-Up
This is uncharted territory for me, because I’ve never reviewed a stand-up comedy before. Don’t worry, I won’t be ruining or spoiling any of the jokes from the show. What I’ll do is describe the elements of the stand-up show (comedic style, sense of energy, atmosphere, theme, etc.) as well as compare it to Hart’s previous shows.
For those unfamiliar with Kevin Hart’s stand-up, Hart’s comedic style is best described as observational humor mixed with elements of black comedy, surreal humor, physical comedy, and occasional wordplay. Hart’s specialty is describing events from his everyday life in a dramatic fashion, usually by means of chronicling his perspective of the event in question. Much of his comedic inspiration comes from life as a family man, his love life, finances, interactions with everyday people, and his own insecurities… Oh, and did I mention his height? He definitely pokes fun at his height. Some of his more notable characteristics include his use of hand gestures, facial expressions, and his rapid-fire speaking style, like a slightly slower Eddie Murphy. His award-winning charisma, relatable subject matters, and ability to make himself the butt of the joke make Kevin Hart one of the most revered comedians of the past decade.
Though, chances are if you’ve seen stand-up comedy in the past ten years, you already know Kevin Hart’s style and love it as much as I do. In which case, you’re probably wondering what What Now? does differently from his past shows. The answer: not too much. Kevin Hart fans will be right at home with everything that makes Kevin Hart so funny, but won’t really notice much in the way of breaking new ground.
There is one added feature in What Now? that I found very clever. Unlike typical stand-up shows where the only visual stimuli is the comedian, the stage, and whatever accessories happen to be on the stage at the time (such as a chair or prop), Hart took it step forward here. What he did was add huge screens into the background of the stage. While he was performing the show, the screens would show images to go along with Kevin’s stories. That, I thought, was a good idea and a great way of setting the scene and adding an extra layer to the joke. It helps the audience see the events Kevin is describing, and it usually enhances the joke beyond what is actually being said. Maybe there were one or two jokes where I thought it telegraphed the joke a bit too early, but for the most part it works very well.
As for the actual content of the show itself, again, it’s standard Kevin Hart fare throughout. Nothing too out of the ordinary in terms of material, but I’m totally okay with that. What Now? features Kevin Hart in one of his most pure performances in a while, due mainly to this show’s more open-ended theme.
All stand-up shows have a core theme to them which all the jokes center around; a thesis statement if you will. Past Kevin Hart shows have dealt with parenthood, growing up, and divorce, but this one has a much more simple theme: What now? Where does he go from here? What direction can he take himself and his brand next? I love this theme, because it’s broad enough that you can answer it in a variety of ways. There’s no real limit to how you can answer the question, and Hart takes the topic to its limits throughout the show.
Some returning sources of comedy include Kevin’s family and his fiancee (now wife). The Hart elite will recognize the characteristics of his kids and of course his father. In fact, I think some of the best jokes in the special involve Kevin’s father, especially the one that involves iPhones. Though Kevin also mixes in some new characters to the show. His fiancee, for one, plays a huge role in at least two of the show’s big moments. You also get better acquainted with Kevin’s friends, who you only heard about in passing before. The mix of new and familiar characters is definitely makes What Now? stand out as something refreshing yet still very much Kevin Hart.
As for the impact of jokes, you know you had a good time when one or more of the following things happen: you’re face hurts from smiling so much, you moved in your seat several times over, or you’re laugh is so hard that it sounds unnatural. For me personally, all of those things were true. Hart’s ability to make me laugh hasn’t seized no matter how many shows I go through with him. I’ll admit that I’ve probably laughed harder in his previous shows. Watching Laugh at My Pain for the first time is like doing a full workout on your abs. It’s that funny. What Now? doesn’t quite pack the same punch, but it does come close towards the end.
The only problem I had with the material was towards the beginning of the set. This isn’t a huge problem, but it can prove pretty jarring to those who notice it. Remember Kevin Hart’s most recent appearance on Saturday Night Live. If you didn’t, don’t look it up before you watch this movie. His SNL monologue isn’t just similar to the first ten minutes of the show; it is the first ten minutes of the show. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still a really funny set, and he does add a bit more onto it to make it a bit more fresh. It’s just… I’ve seen this before. It took me out of the movie for a bit. Thankfully, I was right back in the film towards by the end. In fact, my favorite part of the show was towards the end, and I’ll let you guys experience that for yourselves.
As a stand-up comedy movie, Kevin Hart: What Now? is a great time in the theater filled to the brim of clever, refreshing and relatable humor. With jokes that appeal to almost everybody, I dare you not to find any enjoyment in what Kevin has to say. Odds are you’ll come out of the theater exhausted from laughing so much and quoting some of his one-liners on the way home. Even though I personally believe this isn’t as good as some of his past shows, it’s by no means bad. Even a slightly inferior Kevin Hart comedy is still funny as hell.
I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t find any level of enjoyment in this. Unless you’re either very young, easily offended, or hate Kevin Hart, you’re clear to see this movie. It’s also super easy to get into if you somehow never saw a Kevin Hart comedy before. Just keep in mind what I said earlier about the beginning. If you can move past that minor flaw, it’s smooth sailing from there.
I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!
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Thanks for reading!