Christian Ziolkowski ’20 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Kevin Hart’s latest film should act as a warning to comedians everywhere: if you want to be original, don’t open your concert films with the exact same ten minutes of material that you used when you hosted Saturday Night Live. This foolish move actually sets the perfect tone for Kevin Hart: What Now?, the latest concert movie from America’s bestselling comedian. Hart proves that he is funny and talented, but his apparent refusal to offer anything new prevents the film from ever getting off the ground.
Kevin Hart occupies a unique spot in the entertainment world. He is universally recognized and makes a copious amount of money, but possesses almost no cultural relevance. He seems resigned to a life of making movies that are not good enough to be respected, but not quite bad enough to become punchlines themselves. His constant presence at the multiplex seems neither to offend nor excite the moviegoing public. Kevin Hart just is, and we enjoy him, but few would lose sleep if he were to suddenly retire tomorrow. He has developed a persona that can be described as “appealing enough,” and in What Now?, he largely sticks to it.
Fans of Kevin Hart will be fans of What Now?, as the comedian knows what the audience likes, and he delivers it for ninety minutes. Whether he is shrieking and doing silly dance moves or poking fun at his height, Hart plays the hits. But fans who enjoy him in short bursts on The Tonight Show but hope to see more depth from his act will leave the theater unhappy. While his energy is impressive, his writing is lazy. In 2016, there is absolutely no reason for a joke about how hard it is to order at Starbucks. The topic has been beaten to death by comedians everywhere, and Hart brings nothing new to the table. When he claims that he could not figure out how to pronounce the word “latte,” Kevin Hart is simply embarrassing himself.
But in between all of the trite material, Hart shows flashes of brilliance. He is at his best when he allows his comedy to become personal. The best moments in What Now? come when he talks about his relationships with his family in a genuine way. When he rants about how his kids are not tough enough, the jokes don’t connect because he isn’t connecting to them. It just looks like he is trying to exploit a joke that has been made by countless other comedians. But when he expresses his horror over his father giving his kids unwrapped peppermints out of his pocket, you would be hard-pressed not to smile. It isn’t the most cutting-edge material in the world, but it is clear that he is coming from a real place.
Kevin Hart is funny. He wouldn’t be at the top of the comedy world if he wasn’t. But in attempting to give the audience what he thinks they want, he loses what makes him great. His ability to notice the stupidity in everyday interactions is masked by his tendency to tell stories so over-the-top that they cease to be entertaining. The energy that powers his rapid-fire delivery is often expended on bland physical comedy.
Deep down, Kevin Hart has a fantastic stand-up movie in him. Unfortunately, this isn’t it.
Overall Grade: B-
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