Movie review: Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain
05:00 AM, Jul 05, 2013
Kevin Hart insists he’s got some explaining to do.
When the comedian finally gets around to putting forth his opinions in Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain ( * * out of four, rated R, opening Wednesday nationwide), he is intermittently funny. But the movie’s first 20 minutes is devoted to tediously showing how his career has taken off around the world. That might be fine if this were a documentary, or if it were done more artfully, and with humor since we go into the movie expecting a 75-minute laugh-fest.
Instead, scenes highlighting his highly successful 2012 concert tour in which Hart sold out arenas in Oslo, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, London and throughout most of Canada simply feel like hagiography. Hart is understandably proud of his achievements (and even tears up when thanking his Madison Square Garden audience). But the way in which his ascendancy is handled feels more self-congratulatory than illuminating. His tour covered 10 countries and 80 cities, and it made $32 million. What jumps out about that astounding accomplishment is that most fans overseas discovered him on YouTube.
His energetic stand-up routine at the Garden can be riotously funny. It also can be frenetic and repetitive. More judicious editing would have showcased his talents better.
The movie opens with Hart throwing a party in New York City. He’s beset by people who think he has gone Hollywood. Maybe this would have been the time to launch directly into his stand-up show.
Instead, the film detours to venues across Canada from Vancouver to Montreal and scenes of cheering, adoring fans. Cut to Scandinavia and the U.K. and more cheering, adoring fans. The filmmakers don’t bother to include jokes that really killed in these foreign cities, which might have been cross-culturally intriguing. They just cut to rabid adulation, all of which looks pretty much the same no matter what country he’s in.
Hart is more likable when he’s self-deprecating, both in his stand-up act and in the final segment of the movie. So why does he wait till the credits to show funny man-in-the-street segments in which people don’t have a clue who he is? If he had interspersed those amid the admiration, it might have been a funnier counterpoint.
His stand-up act is definitely not for the prudish or those who can’t take profanity. There’s rampant use of the word that got Paula Deen in trouble. But he has a hilarious segment in which he admits he’s an inveterate liar and recounts a ridiculous tall tale to explain away being 5 minutes late for work. It involves a half deer, half zebra (“deerbra”) and a baby running across a freeway who morphs into a man with Benjamin Button disease. Clearly, Hart has a zany comic imagination. But he wastes too much time on less comical stories of his jealous or crazy girlfriends. His closing riff on horseback riding with his kids is priceless as he describes how his feet can’t reach the stirrups. He has a way with deadpan, wide-eyed expressions. He cleverly uses his height 5-foot-2 as fodder for some funny material.
The movie takes a while to get going and definitely could cut the fawning fans. But once Hart steps on stage and launches into his routine his punch lines punctuated by columns of “pointless” fire just because it worked for Jay Z the laughs come.