By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — No, let me explain: it’s both a criticism and a compliment –- but mostly the former — to say that Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain is too short. Not him, his movie.
For a theatrical feature to run just over an hour without feeling like an unfinished product, the audience ought to be left with the feeling that a lot of material was trimmed and crammed into the allotted time.
On the contrary, this concert flick feels stretched beyond its natural limits.
If anything is the opposite of a summer blockbuster on movie screens, it’s one guy standing on a stage holding a microphone. Which is what makes Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain the ultimate feat of cinematic counterprogramming.
It’s a chronicle of the diminutive standup comic’s 2012 “Let Me Explain” tour of 80 cities (including London, Montreal, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Oslo, Toronto, Copenhagen, Vancouver, and New York City) in 10 different countries, a concert documentary with the performance footage shot at New York’s sold-out Madison Square Garden, where Hart appeared in front of a crowd of 30,000, an unusual opportunity and achievement that he is clearly moved by.
Some of the irreverent observational material in his autobiographical approach is aimed squarely at his fan base, some of it intended to broaden his audience.
Self-deprecation, catchphrases, broad humor, a dizzying energy level, and sharp comic timing and precise delivery are his stocks in trade, and he’s an impressive storyteller and mimic who knows how to play to the closeup movie lens.
But he’s not quite up there yet with the masters of the form, most notably Richard Pryor, who set the bar quite high.
Hart, a native Philadelphian who also served as one of the executive producers, has a motormouth delivery that lends his anecdotes a propulsive momentum.
Directors Tim Story (Barbershop, Taxi, Fantastic Four, Think Like a Man) and Leslie Small (Hart’s 2012 concert documentary, Laugh at my Pain, as well as the 2008 concert documentary, Steve Harvey: Still Trippin’ ) don’t really have enough material for a feature film: the running time is a mere 75 minutes, the on-stage performance constituting only an hour.
They begin with fan footage from stops on Hart’s world tour that is really just filler, filled with glowing testimonials from fans, a preamble that makes the film seem not only a vanity presentation but a glorified home movie at that.
It seems forever until they actually get to his on-stage presentation and the initial buildup, with all that self-promotion, is almost embarrassing. The film recovers once Hart actually hits the stage because he is impressively funny, but then it’s over all too quickly.
On the other hand, it can be said that Hart and the film leave you wanting more, which is either a good less-is-more thing or just a polite way of saying that the meal did not have enough courses.
Methinks the latter.
The R-rated script, written by Hart, Harry Ratchford, and Joey Wells, is one-dimensional but undeniably funny as it touches upon Hart’s private life: dating, divorce, parenting, drinking, fighting, shooting, drug-taking, even horseback riding. A wider range of subjects or even more in a similar vein would have gone a long way to justify Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain as a paying-audience theatrical attraction rather than a free couch-potato diversion.
So we’ll stand up 2 stars out of 4 for the comedy concert flick, Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain. If you’re already a fan, you can add another ½ a star out of the goodness of your Hart.