Taking Hart To Heart
DIRECTED BY LESLIE SMALL, TIM STORY/2013
Kevin Hart is the most recent African-American stand-up comedian to enjoy considerable crossover success in America as well as abroad. As the heir apparent to Dave Chappelle, he has chosen (wisely?) to keep his material limited to relational, observational humor, rather than branch out into political and societal critique. There will be no burnout for Kevin Hart anytime soon, probably because he lays all of his burdens on the stage before his audience, laughing at himself with them. But unlike other comedians who have made a living riffing on divorce or fatherhood, Hart never comes off as morose or pitiable. He leans into his weaknesses but never gets stuck there. His energy rockets his slight 5’4” frame around the stage like a pinball on a board; Showtime at the Apollo meets Cirque Du Soleil. Make no mistake: Kevin Hart is having as much fun as anyone else in the building.
Riding the success of his previous comedy specials Seriously Funny and Laugh at My Pain, which have made him a YouTube star, Hart has incorporated his 2012 comedy tour Let Me Explain into a barely feature length (75 minutes) theatrical release of the same name. Its part vanity project, part concert tour, part taxi-cab confession.
The first ten minutes of Let Me Explain feature a mockumentary style setup to his sold out Madison Square Garden appearance. Hart is hosting a party for some ungrateful friends who turn on him, criticizing him for rumors they’ve heard about his divorce, feelings of inadequacy, and his inability to achieve fame abroad, for which one critic calls him a L.A.B.—a hilarious term that I cannot expound upon here. Hart has had enough and sets off to embark on a world tour proving all of the haters wrong. The scripted mockumentary is surprisingly funny in itself as we watch Hart squirm his way out of false allegations and tell his manager to call “The Garden” in order to vindicate himself (“You just ate, why do you want to go to Olive Garden?”).
His energy rockets his slight 5’4” frame around the stage like a pinball on a board; “Showtime at the Apollo” meets Cirque Du Soleil. Make no mistake: Kevin Hart is having as much fun as anyone else in the building
We then follow along while Hart tours across Canada and Scandinavia, to cities where his YouTube videos have received the most hits—no explanation is given to the correlation between Hart’s success and the Arctic Circle. We see life on a tour bus with his entourage, bits of Hart’s show, and post-concert adulation from fans with funny accents. The montage becomes tiresome by the time you realize you’re watching an infomercial for Kevin Hart. Thankfully it’s cut short to make way for the meat of the feature, his sold out show at Madison Square Garden.
The show itself is good, but tragically short. At just under an hour, it ends all too quickly and abruptly. Hart’s material is more or less the same as his previous specials: the anxieties of being a husband, being an ex-husband, being a father, being a friend. All explained through mythical animals (the Deerbra), Spiderman, a woman locked in a trunk and a homoerotic horse ride. And yes there are plenty of F-bombs; leave the kids in Despicable Me 2. Some bits are stretched thin, but since Hart relies so much on his energy, and not his writing, he’s a joy to watch in spite of less-inspired material.
The self-promotion slant of the tour portion of the movie belies Hart’s humility. Whoever hijacked that segment did Hart no favors. By the end of the show, you like Kevin Hart, because how can you not like a guy so transparent as to admit that he’s got a problem with lying or that he’s afraid of being a bad dad?
Let Me Explain is an easy call; if you’re a fan of Kevin Hart and want to support him without having to give YouTube your money first, make a date at the movies. It’s not his best material, but it’s a welcome addition to a thus far funny summer at the cinema.
NOTE: I’m not sure if my screening had a problem with the speakers, but there was almost no bass or ambient audience noise during the entire length of the show as well as a discernible lag in the audio-sync. If this is indeed the final sound mix, then the experience is severely hampered by an apparently rushed production.