As Nia Howe-Smith observed earlier this week, Kevin Hart has successfully joined the A-list over the past year thanks to last summer’s Let Me Explain, his tour documentary that became the fourth highest grossing stand up concert film ever, and January’s Ride Along, which spent three consecutive weeks at #1 on the box office chart. Just a month later, Hart’s good fortunes should continue as About Last Night aims to score a box office hat trick for the five-foot-four funnyman. Based off David Mamet’s 1974 play Sexual Perversity in Chicago, which inspired the 1986 dramedy starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, About Last Night is pretty much your standard romantic comedy, following two sets of friends – Hart and Michael Ealy, Regina Hall and Joy Bryant – who fall for each over a year full of life changing moments in New York City. Quick, predictable, and full of some pretty dirty laughs, About Last Night plays safely in the boundaries of every rom-com you’ve ever seen, though the genuine chemistry and ace comedic timing of its talented cast help turn what should be a giant, eye-rolling cliché into a pleasant little comedy.
The biggest strength here is that director Steve Pink knows the talents of his ensemble and really brings out the best of his four leads’ styles of comedy. Hart, flaunting his trademark rapid-fire loud mouth, plays Bernie, an immature horn-dog who has recently hit it off with Regina Hall’s equally-as-sassy Joan. After a night of some raunchy sex (the movie is a lot more sexual than I expected), the two meet up at a bar for a second date and bring along their best friends and natural comic foils, Danny (Ealy) and Debbie (Bryant). Bernie and Joan end up getting drunk, and man can Hart and Hall play inebriated for maximum comedic effect, which leaves Danny and Debbie to hit it off with an opportune meet-cute. The rest of the film follows the quartet over the next year, as Danny and Debbie fall in love and face typical rom-com problems (a dog, career doubts, a sexy ex played by Paula Patton) and Berne and Joan bicker their way through their outrageous on-again-off-again relationship. It’s that simple.
Fortunately, the main quartet is so relatable, charming, and convincing in their roles, not even rom-com clichés like the ex-lover passing out at the bar and needing a place to stay can keep you from enjoying their natural, free-flowing chemistry. Hart can rattle off so many jokes so quickly, be them winners like a great John Legend knockdown or wild riffs on Star Wars and castration, that his razor sharp boyishness is always good for a chuckle at the least. In most moments, however, like one involving a dinner and a zip lock bag, his comic skills are hilariously dominating. Hall has already proven her R-rated comedy chops (see Scary Movie) and she’s obnoxiously feisty here, going head-to-head with Hart in many of the couple’s laugh-out-loud sexcapades (one such moment involving a chicken suit drew some pretty boisterous laughs in my screening). With Hart and Hall scoring most of the big laughs, Ealy and Bryant provide the more emotional, romantic parts of the story. They’re relationship is no doubt predictable, but the two share such an easy rapport that it’s hard not to fall for Ealy’s smooth pick up lines or Bryant’s charming laugh and smile. It’s especially refreshing to see Bryant back on the big screen after spending so much time on TV’s Parenthood.
Ultimately, the cast, clearly having a blast working with one another (similar to the ensemble of last fall’s The Best Man Holiday), combined with the screenplay, which is framed more around conversations than it is event after event, work together so that although you may recognize many cliché moments, you won’t have to endure the pain of them. Cliché can work when executed respectfully and About Last Night proves it. Though the editing feels a bit rushed in places and the ending is anti-climactic, About Last Night has enough laughs and good talent for a solid Valentine’s Day date at the movies. In other words, Kevin Hart has done it again.
Review by Zack Sharf