By: Muneeb Arshid
Alright Kevin Hart, What Now? What are you going to do? I have no problem with comedians trying to cash in on using the cinema as the vehicle for their work. But make sure it’s funny or has something new to say that we haven’t heard before. I realize it’s a subjective thing for someone to enjoy a particular stand-up comedy routine, but make it something that is worth it for people to pay and watch in a theatre.
Yes, I played with the title of the film earlier, but Kevin Hart: What Now? is the latest stand-up comedy film released by Kevin Hart and his production company. The majority of the 96 minute running time is of Hart’s record-breaking stand-up show at Lincoln Financial Field in his hometown of Philadelphia. This show was significant because it was the first time that a stand-up comic was able to sell out an entire football stadium. The stand-up itself is about 75 minutes long and is the usual schpiel of Hart yelling and screaming his way through the ordeal. As you may have guessed, I did not find his material funny in this film, nor have I found him necessarily funny in the past. Which is why trying to determine whether a stand-up comedian is funny or not can be a very subjective issue. I may have smiled a few times at certain “smart-ish” jokes, but nothing noteworthy. The stand-up was the usual affair of “N-words”, spousal/partner jokes, rape jokes, crotch jokes, etc. that we have come to expect from a lot of comics. Now, there are some comics out there who will use these same topics listed and make a smart routine out of it all, or will genuinely use their own life experiences to fill in their jokes. For me, even when Hart is using his own experiences, there is an air of insincerity emanating from him.
Now, it wasn’t all bad in the film. First off, in the stand-up itself, one thing that I will give Hart is that he will come back to material he uses at the beginning of the routine and tie it in with the final pieces. You can say that his stand-up routines have some sort of a narrative structure to them, and it was something that I appreciated in his writing of the material that he could connect it all together. I also only talked of 75 of the 96 minutes. The other, approximately 20 minutes of the film, are bookended on either side of the stand-up as a spoof on James Bond and Casino Royale. The first 15 minutes of the film “occur” 3 hours prior to the beginning of his stand-up and are a direct spoof of the casino scene in Casino Royale. Hart assumes the role of James Bond and Halle Barry (looking gorgeous as hell at 50 years young) plays the role of Vesper Lind. Starting the film with that actually had me quite intrigued and would’ve quite liked to see a bit more of that, however, once the stand-up began, there were very few redeeming factors left for the film.
If you are going to be screening stand-up routines in movie theatres and expecting normal, working class folk to pony up and go watch it, then you damn well better make sure that it is the funniest thing made. It’s will be very easy for people to knock on this review and say, “oh, it’s just another critic, they don’t understand comedy”, fair enough. But, when out of the 11 people that came to watch the film at a Thursday night early screening, four walked out, that’s not always the best sign that the film will be a success. If you’re a fan of Kevin Hart, and I mean a die-hard fan, that you might end up enjoying this film, but for the casual moviegoer, this might end up being quite a chore and would work better as a Netflix release instead.
Surprisingly, Kevin Hart: What Now? escapes a complete lambasting from a score standpoint and receives a grade of D (5.2/10).