Film Review: Kevin Hart: What Now?

Kevin Can’t Wait: Into the Arena

For fans of hilarious, often off-color comedy, Kevin really can’t wait: So head on down to the multiplex to laugh your head off at Kevin Hart: What Now?  Much of it is a concert film in the tradition of Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy’s earlier forays into this category of semi-documentary filmmaking of a live performance by a comedian.  However, Hart’s standup routines are wittily sandwiched between an opening credit montage and sequences that are rib-tickling genre spoofs featuring Halle Berry, Don Cheadle and Daily Show and Hangover alum Ed Helms (as a token Caucasian?).

There are some inventive sight gags in the opening scene that are reminiscent of visualizations Woody Allen previously spoofed, although Hart, who also executive produced What Now? (which was directed by veteran Hart helmer Leslie Small), does so in an original way.  But most of this film is shot in a sports stadium (which I am deliberately not naming in order to avoid giving a corporate plug) where an animated, at all times engaging Hart delivers a number of his routines.

What is, perhaps, most refreshing about his point of view is that in our macho era of perpetual warfare, a recurring theme in Hart’s manic monologues is cowardice – in particular, open confessions of his own lack of valor.  To his credit, the comic also repeatedly cites the virtues of confiding in one’s children and friends, the importance of sharing and intimacy – even if, as he jokes, he wouldn’t rescue them if his own life was endangered.

Hart’s well-delivered standup, accompanied with imagery on the stadium’s jumbo screens, is decidedly of the observational type.  His topics are anything but topical, with Hart’s humor making light of daily absurdities, including family; friends; ping pong; betting; sex toys; ordering coffee at Starbucks; and the like.  There may be one reference to police shootings of African Americans, but whether by design or not, Hart steers clear of political points and reaction shots of multi-culti members of the sold out crowd at the arena reinforce the message that unlike, say, Paul Mooney, Hart is a crossover comic and equal opportunity jester.

He does, however, make fun of disabilities.  But I hasten to add that they are improbable, made-up types of physical aberrations – unlike Trump, who publicly mocked a disabled reporter.  However, like Trump, Hart uses lots of vulgarities, including the “N” word.  It’s interesting if not exactly amusing to note that one of the main things Trump will be remembered for if he’s not elected führer is this vulgarian’s coarsening of our language and discourse.  He enabled the so-called “news” media to expand its lexicon to include terms like “bullshit artist” and unleashed a veritable “pussy riot” on what passes for the news.

Be that as it may, What Now?, which opens October 14, may provide many with an enjoyable refuge where they can escape the insanity of the unfolding presidential debacle for 96 minutes.  If most men (and women) live, as Thoreau observed, “lives of quiet desperation,” Hart is a daffy, different drummer whose wit and wisdom should enable them to at least enjoy some noisy, laugh out loud moments in the midst of madness.  And to paraphrase Carson McCullers, this Hart is a laughter hunter.  In its own way, Kevin Hart: What Now? makes a contribution to the growing cinematic surge of Black-themed films, currently being led by Nate Parker’s brilliant but decidedly unfunny The Birth of a Nation.

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