Movie Review: ‘KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW?’ – funny, but not his best material


Jared McMillan // Film Critic

KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW? | 96 min | R
Director: Leslie Small and Tim Story
Cast: Kevin Hart, Don Cheadle and Halle Berry

It’s no secret that Kevin Hart is one of, if not the, biggest comedian on the planet. He has high likability and his comedy is something that is a dichotomy of sorts, playing off insecurity by way of over-the-top braggadocio.

In 2016 alone, movies that had Kevin Hart in a major role have grossed $90 million (RIDE ALONG 2), $127 million (CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE), and $365 million (THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS); all movies are in top-25 domestic grosses for 2016.

Hart has the ability to show the audience himself while also creating a persona that mirrors both truth and fiction. After all, the best comedy is usually something that is hyperbole to real-life moments that occurred to the comedian. So while his box office grosses continue to climb, it’s his stand-up specials that are his bread-and-butter. It’s where his personality gets to shine, without worrying about being a tad confined by an entire plotline or scenes.

His latest, and apparently final, stand-up film, KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW? centers on Hart’s most successful tour to date, set in front of a sold-out crowd at the Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. This particular show broke records as it’s the first time a comedian has ever played to an at-capacity football stadium, made more personal due to the fact that it’s Kevin Hart’s hometown.

KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW? starts off with a James Bond spoof, features a performance at a football stadium in Philadelphia. Courtesy of Matt Kennedy.

KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW? starts off with a James Bond spoof, features a performance at a football stadium in Philadelphia. Courtesy of Matt Kennedy.

As a whole, the movie is a big hit surrounded by somewhat of a miss. Before the stand-up routine occurs, there is a short film that intros the show, where Kevin Hart is Agent 0054 (a play on the actor’s height). He is partnered up with Halle Berry as they try and take down the evil villain before Hart has to start the show. There’s a poker game where he gets into it with Don Cheadle and Ed Helms is a bartender way too invested in the proceedings. What’s meant to be a warm-up for the main event is lukewarm at best, and gets the audience confused and waiting for the show.

However, all of that confusion is forgotten once Hart gets into the concert. It’s astounding to see 50,000 some-odd people gather around a football stadium to watch a comedy show. Aerial shots and tracking cranes show off the sheer magnitude of what Kevin Hart pulled off. Directed by Leslie Small (who did Hart’s last two stand-up movies LET ME EXPLAIN and LAUGH AT MY PAIN) does his best to work the crowd into the routine. But there is so much crowd reaction to get into that it waters down the actual routine a little with over-editing.

But it’s hard to get mired down in the aesthetics with Kevin Hart. With a set that has detailed jokes ranging from lying because the truth is too unbelievable to his first foray into Starbucks, you’re either smiling wide or laughing hysterically. Because that’s what his comedy brings to the table: infectious and outlandish humor that comes from an honest place. It’s almost a guarantee he’ll say some things that will disagree with you, but they come from such openness that it is easily forgivable. WHAT NOW? is a study of Kevin Hart as both comedian and actor, where he puts himself out there with high energy in hopes of making you laugh. Sometimes it’s a hindrance and does too much (that casino bit kept this from being something great), but it’s never a case where we don’t appreciate his enthusiasm and skews on life.

Kevin Hart says at the beginning of his routine that he got the title because it’s the question people ask him the most: “What now, Kevin?” It may not be evident right now, but there will always be an audience to laugh.

KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW? opens nationwide tomorrow.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.