'Kevin Hart: What Now?' More Scattershot Comedy, That's What

Far from wearing out his welcome, Hart the comedian must battle Hart the superstar for some of his stage time -- and he doesn't always succeed.

Kevin Hart: What Now?

Director: Leslie Small, Tim Story
Cast: Kevin Hart, Halle Berry
Rated: R
Studio: Universal Pictures
Year: 2016
US date: 2016-10-14 (General release)
UK date: 2016-10-14 (General release)

At this point in his career, comedian Kevin Hart has very little to prove. He's gone from motor-mouthed sidekick in such films as Think Like a Man and Grudge Match to co-starring along with names such as Ice Cube and The Rock in hits like Ride Along and Central Intelligence. In between, he's made concert films, worked on TV shows, and used social media to go from simple stand-up to international superstar.

"If you can laugh together, you can live together ..."
He's now the funnyman du jour on Hollywood's fast track, a name that pops up when a remake needs a spark of spastic comedy (Jumanji, The Intouchables) or you kid vid requires that mandatory stunt voice casting (The Secret Life of Pets, the upcoming Captain Underpants film). Through it all, Hart has maintained a close connection to his base, something he brags about during his latest big screen laugher, Kevin Hart: What Now? This entertaining concert effort is hilarious, as usual, but as with some of his more recent work, it also shows a man reaching the limits of what the demographic will endure.

Using his new found power to preamble his live joke routine, Hart enlists Oscar-winner Halle Berry so that they can play spies on a fictional movie-within-a-movie subplot. They are out to save the world, naturally, and our hero has a hard time doing just that. The result: a career change, resulting in this filmed performance before a mega-crowd at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In front of this throng -- numbers are estimated at somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 -- Hart has his moments. But he's also running a bit thin, his ADHD influenced persona starting to fray from overuse.

Like Richard Pryor before him, this is not Hart's first filmed stand-up show. Both Laugh at My Pain and Let Me Explain have expanded his brand while bringing more and more fans to his scattershot joking. Hart's main theme (his family and how they frazzle him) can be mined for a lot of good humor, but in What Now? we are supposed to enjoy hearing how a rich comedian deals with such horrors as moving to the suburbs and the teachers at a private school. Gone are the real struggles. In their place is something akin to celebrity privilege.

Granted, Hart is funny. He can take a simple line and milk it for as much as he can. But like most of the criticisms laid at his acting, he's also loud, chaotic, and undisciplined. There are times when you can see where a joke is going and yet Hart's head is so far beyond where his mouth is headed that he trips up, treating the mistake like a proud part of his act. He's got a thing for wild animals -- which apparently populate the subdivision he now lives in -- and this highlights another flaw in his funny business: he has a tendency to beat bits into the ground, and then keep slugging away until someone (the joke, the audience) cries "Uncle".

Time is also not on Hart's side. Timing isn't the problem, he has that, but duration and length of performance trip him up. Sure, you want to give your stadium audience their money's worth, but what was sharp and sidesplitting in the first 15 minutes just drags and drags by the last ten. Hart repeats himself, bringing back bits for a second airing that weren't that good in the first place. He also becomes frustrated internally. You can tell he wants to diverge more from his stock and trade, but he's also aware that those old chestnuts are the reason most paid their exorbitant ticket prices in the first place.

Indeed, Kevin Hart: What Now? is more like a souvenir than a film. Considering the format, however, that's fair. Hart has the kind of effervescent enthusiasm and self-deprecating resolve that allows his fans to walk inside his shoes as he mocks death and other everyday horrors. He's not consistently funny; his routines don't rise and fall, building to undeniably hilarious punchlines. Instead, he's like a machine gun, rattling off material at a lightning pace in hopes that some of his stuff strikes the target. Enough does to make Kevin Hart: What Now? worth your time. But there will be moments when you wonder where the editor was and why that editor didn't trim some fat.

Hart is at his apex now. He can call the shots and name his price. Thanks to several success buddy comedies, he has projects lined up for the foreseeable future and can put his name on almost anything and enjoy success. Kevin Hart: What Now? is as close as a test of that theory as we have right now. Granted, as the funnyman du jour of Tinseltown's stock and trade, he's destined to be replaced. However, he always has his jokes to fall back on, and from the quality of this showcase, he will be around a lot longer than others like him who have burned bright and flamed out.







The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.


John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.


Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.


Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.


Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.


Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.


Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.


Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.


Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".


The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.


The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.


Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.


​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.


John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.