Kevin Hart: What Now? review

kevin_hart_what_nowIn August of 2015 funnyman Kevin Hart made comedy history when he performed for 50,000 people at a sold out Lincoln Financial Field. It was a notable moment for Hart and for the world of comedy in general, as this was the first time that a comedian ever played a football stadium at capacity. Yes, it sounds like a lot of qualifiers for the record’s title, but 50,000 people ain’t chump change, and Hart expectedly rose to the occasion.

When this show was first announced, I had to laugh. The tickets were pricey, the venue is not even remotely designed for comedy (Demetri Martin famously joked that the best venues for comedy were the worst for fire safety), and Kevin Hart is such a little guy that anyone not in the front few rows would be paying to essentially watch a screen. I figured that outside of super fans who wanted to be a part of history, everyone else could wait for the concert movie. Well, here it is!

Fans of Hart will dig it, non fans won’t. But I can’t imagine anyone but the most curmudgeonly managing not to get some laughs out of What Now?  Even in the absence of deep material (Hart closes with a bit about Starbucks that would have been fresh 20 years ago), his energy is infectious, and his gift for cocky self-deprecation is second to none. Hart has star power and likability, both of which do wonders to pave over the weaker portions of his set and elevate the stronger portions of his material into comedy gold.

8P05_D002_00556 In Universal Pictures’ Kevin Hart: What Now?, comedic rockstar KEVIN HART follows up his 20 13 hit standup concert movie Let Me Explain, which grossed $32 million domestically and became the thirdhighest live standup comedy movie of all time. Hart takes center stage in this groundbreaking, recordsetting, soldout performance of “What Now?”—filmed outdoors in front of 50,000 people at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field—marking the first time a comedian has ever performed to an atcapacity football stadium. Credit: Frank Masi

The backdrop for the stage is often employed into Hart’s material, serving as a sort of PowerPoint display to help punctuate his jokes. As a comedian with a tendency toward facial expressions and physical act-outs of his jokes, the added animation of an active backdrop serves the material well, validating what I’m sure was initially a way of adding value for the nosebleed section of the live audience. But kudos to Hart; it’s clear that even if he had merely a simple soapbox to stand on, he’d have found a way to engage all 50,000 members of the crowd. He’s that skilled of a performer.

Hart has been carrying the stand-up movie torch for some time now, releasing an event every few years. It’s something that no other comedian of recent memory has tried to do, and it’s good to see the tradition kept alive by such a funny guy. Unfortunately, Hart has indicated that this is likely his last concert film. Understandably enough, he’d like to go out on top. After selling out a football stadium, it’s time to ask “what now?”

That’s the name of the movie.

The film is framed with an appropriately silly spy movie parody involving Hart, a poker game, and a briefcase full of money. Halle Berry and Don Cheadle both make charming cameos, as does Ed Helms, who should be barred from ever being in anything again because he has never once been funny ever. Ever. Seriously, Ed Helms is the worst thing to happen to comedy since Gallagher 2. Or present day Gallagher 1.

Here’s an idea: I’ll pitch Hangover 4: Recovery to Ed Helms and Ken Jeong. They’ll show up on set to find that there is no movie, and they are now locked in a windowless cell. They eventually eat each other and comedy is saved.

Kevin Hart: What Now? opens in Philly theaters today.

Official site.

Author: Dan Scully

Dan Scully is a film buff and humorist living in a tiny apartment in Philadelphia. He hosts the podcast I Like to Movie Movie and is the proud father to twin cactuses named Riggs & Murtaugh. Also, he doesn’t really mind when Batman kills people. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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