Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Cinema File #334: "About Last Night" Review

Ever since his recent explosion into the mainstream, I've had a bit of a love hate relationship with the films of Kevin Hart, in that I hate his movies, and really love it when they end sooner than I anticipated. His obnoxious rapid fire improvisational style puts one in mind of a less funny Chris Tucker if such a thing could possibly exist, whereupon the louder he screams out his lines, the more I gather I'm supposed to laugh, yet never do. His recent buddy cop comedy (minus the comedy) Ride Along was the surprise hit of the January doldrums, this year's Identity Thief, propelling him even further into the public eye than the equally surprising success of his theatrically released comedy special last year, all of which has led to About Last Night, a terrible remake of a terrible movie ostensibly designed to showcase his terribleness by providing literally nothing else that even remotely resembles entertainment so as not to distract from his wailing faux-charisma.

I suppose making Kevin Hart the most entertaining thing in a movie by default is as good a strategy as anything else to get me to warm up to him, but since the rules of comedy dictate that his antics must be consigned to the B story, having to sit through so much boring relationship drama to get to the few and very tepid laughs is almost too much to take. The structure of About Last Night is essentially the Zeppo problem in action, whereupon the funny guy (again, "funny" being a relative term) isn't trusted with being able to carry the emotional weight of a movie, so all the drama is thrust upon a cardboard leading man type and his equally lifeless love interest. If you're confused by any of this, its probably because you live in the present day after Harold Ramis and Bill Murray killed Zeppo in his sleep back in the 80's with films like S.T.R.I.P.E.S. and Ghostbusters, which proved that this whole division of labor was unnecessary and only made for a less funny movie. Apparently nobody told that to the people who made this movie.

The guy who plays the android on Almost Human whose name I refuse to look up has started a relationship with soon to be niece #35 in a Madea movie, but complications arise when he starts being an asshole for no reason and causes a momentary break up, which is eventually resolved...somehow. That's literally it. About Last Night doesn't even give us the respect of a flimsy comical misunderstanding that they must overcome to realize how truly meant for each other these two are. They like each other, then they start fighting, then they break up, then they remember that they used to like each other, then they get back together. Admittedly its actually closer to the reality of most on again off again relationships than the typical schmaltzy romantic comedy, at least in terms of the lack of a movie friendly crystallizing moment, but since it was clearly an outcome arrived at purely by accident, the film deserves no credit for it.

Meanwhile, android guy's best friend Kevin Hart has struck up a sillier, more hyper-sexualized relationship with Madea's niece's best friend, engaging in various wacky sexual escapades and absurd arguments to demonstrate that they are perfectly suited to each other by being equally annoying. They break up too, but at least they both cop to the reason being completely arbitrary, and because the reason for them being together in the first place is so openly shallow from the outset, it doesn't feel quite as forced when they get back together at the drop of a hat with no real exploration for their conflicts. I'm not asking for much, but as someone with some albeit amateur experience with screenwriting, the idea that someone wrote an outline and a three act structure that ultimately amounted to this just makes me sad. I can't imagine anyone who was involved with making this movie had any fun while doing so, or thought at any point that what they were doing was important or worthwhile.

As always, when no one cares, it shows up in every frame of the film, and About Last Night is a textbook case of someone making a movie without any concern for whether or not its actually good. It's obscurity means the cache of name recognition from the original movie couldn't possibly have been enough to justify production (more than one film nerd I know didn't even recognize it as a remake), so the only explanation is that its a sad excuse for another Kevin Hart vehicle to throw out and see if it sticks until a better one comes along. Other than feeling really sad that Christopher McDonald's talents were wasted in a small supporting role, there is no emotional resonance to be had from a movie supposedly all about love lost and found and all that good mushy stuff. If you manage to get anything more out of it, I would be incredibly surprised.

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