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"ABOUT LAST NIGHT"
(2014) (Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Romantic Comedy: Two couples deal with the progression of their relationships.
PLOT:
Bernie (KEVIN HART) and Danny (MICHAEL EALY) are best friends and coworkers at a restaurant supply company, providing goods for customers such as bar owner Casey (CHRISTOPHER McDONALD) who was good friends with Danny's late father.

While the motor-mouthed Bernie is wild and uninhibited, Danny is more reserved and still getting over his break-up with Alison (PAULA PATTON). Following what could have been a one-night stand with dental hygienist Joan (REGINA HALL), Bernie has Danny join him for a double-date with Joan's roommate, Debbie (JOY BRYANT).

When Bernie and Joan drunkenly go off to have sex, Danny and Debbie chat, hit it off, and end up sleeping together as well. All of which results in both sets of friends separately talking about what happened and what any of it means, if anything.

Yet, while Bernie and Joan eventually break up, the relationship between Danny and Debbie deepens to the point that she moves out of Joan's place and into Danny's. As the year wears on, however, little things start creeping up that start driving increasingly sizeable dividers between them, all while Bernie and Joan continue with their love-hate-let's have sex relationship.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
During his long career, James Brown was often known as "the hardest working man in show business." Some could argue that the same should be said about Bruce Springsteen and his legendary give-it-all concerts, or even Jay Leno who reportedly would continue his long-running standup comedy gigs on his days off from hosting "The Tonight Show."

One could also certainly throw comedian Kevin Hart into the mix for title holder. After mostly flying under the major cultural radar for years doing his standup comedy as well as appearing in various small movie parts, he's suddenly all over Hollywood. That includes increasingly higher profile parts in movies such as "Think Like a Man," "Grudge Match," "Ride Along" and his own stand-up comedy films, a reality TV show, his own game app and so on.

That trend (that's starting to veer ever closer to over-exposure) continues with "About Last Night." If that title is familiar, it's because the film is a remake of the 1986 romantic dramedy -- starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore as the leads, with James Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins in the funny supporting roles -- that was based on the 1974 David Mamet play "Sexual Perversity in Chicago."

Mamet's iconic dialogue structure and cadence is nowhere to be found in this offering where screenwriter Leslye Headland has replaced that with lots of crude and explicit sexual talk. While there are a few occasionally amusing lines here and there during the film's 100-some minute runtime, the script isn't as funny as all involved seemed to believe. Nor is it particularly insightful or anything novel in terms of how men and women look at sex, love and relationships in both different yet sometimes similar ways.

The film starts off with Hart's character chatting with his best friend (Michael Ealy) about his one-night stand with the dental hygienist played by Regina Hall, all while her character discusses the same with her best friend (Joy Bryant). Director Steve Pink ("Hot Tub Time Machine") cuts back and forth between the two sets of friends talking and includes quick flashbacks to the pivotal event that gets the story moving forward.

Although that and the commercials might lead one to believe the movie is about and Hall, the plot really revolves around Ealy and Bryant playing two people who aren't looking for love but think they find it following their own subsequent one-night stand. Against their friend's warnings and advice, the two new lovers move in together and then proceed to fall into the usual rom-com plot river where everything easily flows at first but then becomes a bit stagnant before hitting the rapids, going over the falls, and then getting back in the boat and starting anew.

Unfortunately, Headland's plot mechanics of traveling through those waters is nowhere as funny, novel or interesting as it could have been. Character motivations and behaviors change abruptly and without sound or believable reasons, and it's not hard to see the obvious "this needs to happen to them now" markers scattered along the course.

While that's as clunky as they come, at least Hart and Hall have some energetic and rapid-fire comedic chemistry, and the pic clearly should have been about them as they and their "relationship" is clearly more interesting than that of their counterparts. Unfortunately, they're saddled with material and dialogue that's more ribald than hilarious and ultimately more repetitive than imaginative.

It doesn't help matters that Pink often directs the movie as if it's been made to showcase an ADHD view of the world. Beyond occasionally cutting back and forth between character conversations regarding a common matter, many scenes come and go in not much more than the blink of an eye. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but many are unbelievably short and they end up feeling like little islands all to themselves (with barely any connection to what preceded or then follows them) rather than pieces that form together to create a greater sum of those parts.

In the end, "About Last Night" really isn't worth discussing the next day or any others thereafter, but it does give hope that someone will come along and truly tap into the talent that Kevin Hart obviously possesses. The film rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed February 14, 2014 / Posted February 14, 2014


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