There’s a five-foot-four comedian on the loose and he’s gunning for Hollywood. Pint-sized funnyman Kevin Hart is a name comedy followers are more than familiar with but one regular folk are just getting used to. Thirty-Four year-old Hart had a rough start to his stand-up career but gained notoriety in 2008 with his first stand-up album I’m A Grown Little Man. That album and his follow-ups, Seriously Funny (2010) and Laugh At My Pain (2011), have turned the once-unknown Hart into almost an overnight success. Though he has been in movies and on television before, recently Kevin Hart has been everywhere. He’s had guest spots on Modern Family, Workaholics, and a lead role in BET’s Real House Husbands of Hollywood, where he plays a cartoonish version of himself in the vein of the popular Bravo network’s Housewives series. If all that weren’t already enough, Hart has spent more than enough time these past couple of years on the big screen. Think Like a Man, This Is the End, Grudge Match, Ride Along, About Last Night, and Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain all feature the pocket-sized comic, with the latter perhaps being his most important work to date.
All the movies named have done big things for Kevin Hart, who has said himself in the past that he hopes to model his stand-up-to-A-list-movie-star career after Eddie Murphy. Ride Along, Hart’s first headlining comedy vehicle, earned $48.1 million during its opening weekend ($92.7 million overall), the highest Martin Luther King Day Jr. debut of all time, and spent the next three consecutive weeks as the #1 movie in America, while last year’s Think Like a Man earned $91.5 millio. His latest stand-up movie (more of a spectacular, really) not only raked in $32.2 million during the summer, ranking it as the fourth-highest-grossing stand-up concert film ever, but it also made clear the star power that Hart is bursting with. The film is a combination performance, world tour, and hype vehicle that sets up Kevin Hart as the hottest mainstream comedian around. If you can get past the opening bit, which is a staged bit of Hart hosting a party and throwing everyone out once they start nagging him, begging them to “let me explain!” (Ugh), then the rest of the film is both a funny representation of Hart’s comedy chops and an interesting look into his rise to fame. Hart sells-out huge venues in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, The Netherlands, England, and finally two shows at Madison Square Garden. As we see Hart jet-set around the globe, it’s clear from the brief interviews with thrilled, grinning fans that there’s one thing, other than himself, Hart has to thank for his success: YouTube. It truly shows the power of the Internet that some chatty guy from Philadelphia has transformed into a globally recognized comedian in the span of a few years.
Once the cameras take us to Madison Square Garden, we get to the good stuff. Hart ascends from a platform under the stage, wearing his best Kanye nightwear, to screams and lights and a fire display. He is essentially a rock star. The jokes Hart delivers aren’t anything new from his usual stuff, loudly musing on relationships, his kids, celebrity, and life in general, but his performance continues to improve over the course of the film. Any old fans of his will delight in the subtle hints to past specials (“You gon’ learn today!”) and newbies will find his style easy to get used to. But for all Hart’s fame and fortune he hasn’t yet gotten a big head. As opposed to the typical encore a comic might give, Hart ends his show by saying a heartfelt thank you to his fans and entourage (who travelled with him throughout Europe), whilst teary-eyed and truly humble.
This weekend, Hart hopes to keep the good fortunes coming with About Last Night, a contemporary remake of Edward Zwick’s 1986 original about two developing couples in New York City. The film stars Hart along side Michael Ealy, Joy Bryant, and Regina Hall, and finds the comedian showing off more of his romantic-lead chops than his usual boisterous personality. Perfectly timed for Valentines Day, About Last Night could become Hart’s second $30+ million opener in as many months, a feat you don’t see everyday and one that would confirm his place as an undisputable box office draw. As if that weren’t enough, 2014 should be quite prosperous for the young comedian as Think Like A Man Too hits theaters this June, and if the original’s surprising box office gross from 2012 is any indication, the sequel should be quite the romantic box office. There’s also a Ride Along sequel currently in development (a no brainer given the film just crossed the $100 million mark domestically) and his upcoming film The Wedding Ringer just landed an opening on MLK Weekend 2015, the same spot Ride Along opened this year and a hint that MLK Weekend might be Kevin Hart’s throne for the next couple of years.
Bottom line: Kevin Hart has proven that he’s funny (Judd Apatow likes him!), he’s modest, and that he can put moviegoer butts in seats (shall we check the earnings again?). Hart is many things – a father, a recent divorcee, and a movie star, but now he can add another title to the list: A-Lister.
Are you a fan? Will you be seeing About Last Night this weekend?
Article by Nia Howe-Smith