Kevin Hart has been one of the most prolific entertainers this decade and is the current reigning king of comedy. With his latest stand up concert, What Now?, Hart shows no signs of abandoning his throne any time soon.
It’s a testament to Hart’s charisma that he hasn’t exhausted his shtick yet. With his heavy workload, Hart has long since run the risk of overexposure yet he continues to be entertaining instead of grating. His feature film roles don’t require a high degree of difficulty, but there’s enough of a performance that his stand up comes across like the real Kevin Hart.
Sure, the volume is turned up to 20 and the stories ridiculously exaggerated, but Hart has a way of making a stadium setting feel intimate. It’s as if he was speaking directly to each audience member about some of his crazy stories whether at the barber shop, a BBQ or a business luncheon.
It never fails to be impressive whenever Director Leslie Small pans out to wide shots showing the 50,000 people packed in the sold out Lincoln Financial Field. That’s a massive sea of humanity packed into a football stadium to watch a comedian.
Small resists the temptation to over edit with constant cuts from various angles of Hart and the audience. The audience reactions are sprinkled in just enough without feeling overdone.
As the nation is embroiled in so much racial division and strife, it was comforting to see so many ethnic groups coming together to laugh. It wasn’t about Black, White, Latino, Asian, middle class, low class or one-percenters. Everyone is 100 percent invested in Hart and he delivered.
Hart is a gifted storyteller. Part of what makes his jokes so funny is his extended setup. His gestures, various voices and all-in commitment to selling the story makes the payoff well worth it. And his ability to reference earlier jokes with late in the act stories helps tie it all together.
Some of the film’s best bits have Hart discussing his father’s problems using his smartphone; lying because the truth doesn’t sound believable and his shaming incidents with sex toys.
Most impressive is Hart’s ability to fully embrace the moment. Hart hasn’t reached the point where performing looks like a chore. He’s still attacking each joke with an obvious fiery passion.
What Now? doesn’t quite reach the heights of Hart’s 2013 Let Me Explain. In that span of time, Hart has done 10 films. Let Me Explain found Hart right at the cusp of super stardom while What Now? sees him firmly cemented as the most bankable comedian in Hollywood.
The material isn’t quite in the laugh until you’re hurt territory, but it remains consistently funny. It’s fitting that Hart’s biggest competition now might be from Kevin Hart.
In segments that bookend the concert, Hart lives out his James Bond fantasy. Halle Berry co-stars as his over-it companion as Hart blusters through a card game with Don Cheadle (Captain America: Civil War) and David Meunier (The Equalizer).
As a spy parody, these Tim Story directed segments had enough potential that Hart may as well explore that concept as a full feature film. I’d watch it.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Photo Credit: Frank Masi/Universal Studios