Kevin Hart brings his “A” game to “About Last Night…” For those of us despairing that we’d ever see the little man at his antic best, after that lame second concert film and half-speed blockbuster “Ride Along,” that’s good news.
Paired up with Regina Hall, who gives as good as she gets, in the raunchy romantic African-American remake of the 1986 Rob Lowe/Demi Moore romance based on David Mamet’s play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago,” Hart knocks back drinks and blasts out one-liner observations about the opposite sex and relationships.
“Whoever says ‘I love you’ first cares more!”
And Hall, as Joan to Hart’s Bernie, throws it right back at him and anybody else within range.
“You are making a brief cameo in a very tragic porno.”
Their banter is so sharp and so well-timed that in many of their scenes, this ill-matched but perfectly-suited couple are shouting funny stuff at the same time. And they’re so good they do what other versions of this once-cutting edge piece only flirted with. They overwhelm the romantic leads.
That would be the “serious” couple, played by Rob and Demi back in the day, here performed with a minimum of pathos and comic pop by Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant. Theirs is the relationship we track in this story, one so predictable and bland that the movie is waiting on Hart to show up again and Hall to march into the scene and take him down.
Danny (Ealy) meets Debbie (Bryant) in the middle of a drunken, out of control outing with Bernie and Joan. Over the months, as the louder couple feud, break up and drunkenly hook back up, Debbie and Danny get close, closer then domestic.
The boys and girls debrief each other in assorted LA bars (Sexual Perversity in Los Angeles, this time), where it’s always “About Last Night…” — explicit, blow by blow accounts of seductions, pick ups and the wrong moves each thinks the other is making. One commits, the other “knows when to get out.”
One puts on “relationship weight,” the other is looking to adopt a dog with her man.
Break-ups are abrupt and kind of half-hearted in Leslye Headland’s updated script, though girl bonding over Bruno Mars and Nutella straight out of the jar is funny. Career stumbles, taking a stand on principle over a bar owner’s beer bill (the guys are in restaurant supply) seem flimsy in the current economy.
Which is a problem the whole film — funny as it sometimes is — struggles with. How can you break new ground on “rules” and relationship “tells” after “Friends” and “Seinfeld” and “Rules of Engagement” and scores of films and TV Shows have covered that ground and re-covered in the ensuing decade?
The sex scenes are less romantic and generally played more for laughs. And the conclusions are obvious shortly after the opening credits.
But what keeps us around until the closing credits, where Hart and Hall bust each other up, is the electrical charge between those two. They’re the Wimbledon Finals of sexy, sassy, drunken comic banter — two pros, evenly matched enough to put on a great show, even if they make us forget about the rest of the movie around them as they do.
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, language and brief drug use
Cast: Kevin Hart, Regina King, Michael Ealy, Joy Bryant, Christopher MacDonald
Credits: Directed by Steve Pink, scripted by Leslye Headland, based on the play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.” A Screen Gems release.
Running time: 1:40