Comedy is the most subjective of genres, based (mostly) on individual taste. Stand-up movies are the essence of this, where there’s nothing but a comedian and his or her jokes. If you don’t like the routine, you’re not going to like the movie, since there’s likely to be little else involved. It’s not like you can sit there and enjoy the cinematography somehow. So, Kevin Hart: What Now?, the latest from comedian Kevin Hart — and his first big screen stand-up film — reviews itself. Do you like Hart’s stand-up? Presumably, you’ll like this. It’s a pretty simple equation.
Personally, I’ve had a complicated cinematic relationship with Mr. Hart. His films have, in some sense, been very hit or miss. He’s been involved in some truly gratingly bad films like The Wedding Ringer (2015) and Get Hard (2015) that I’d count among the “misses.” Those I count among the “hits,” however, aren’t so much for their quality but for their potential. Occasionally, when Hart’s given the chance to stray away from the more manic and noisy aspects of his onscreen persona, he can be a likable performer. (About Last Night and his small part in Chris Rock’s Top Five, both from 2014, come to mind immediately.) What Now? is mostly the former. This is Hart’s show after all, and he’s given free reign to be, well, Kevin Hart. Thankfully, since the film is so centered on Hart and his jokes, there are few opportunities for him to truly regress into his most shrill tendencies.
However, I’m not sure what this means because the film — and any one viewer’s enjoyment of it — comes down to what you think of Hart’s comedy. As someone who’s not nominally a fan of stand-up comedy or stand-up films and is not particularly into Hart’s long riffs on relatable pop culture nonsense like Starbucks and James Wan’s The Conjuring (2013), What Now? didn’t really do much for me. I got some chuckles here or there, but this is a film that’s for fans only. If you’re not into him, there’s a whole lot of watching Hart pace around a stage — and little else to bide your time with. There is a languid opening to the film, a 15-minute skit with Hart as a secret agent and some modest celebrity cameos, which goes nowhere and spins its wheels for far too long (here, the film does let its star wallow a bit too much in his more obnoxious habits) before getting to the meat of things. It’s literally padding for a film that (again, unless you’re a fan) feels like it’s superfluous to begin with. Rated R for some sexual material and language throughout.
Now playing at Carolina Cinemark, Carmike 10, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher, Epic of Hendersonville