Last month comedian Kevin Hart dropped his second big screen stand-up film. It’s significant not only because he was able to get two films from a seemingly dead genre released theatrically in this age of YouTube where all of his best acts are probably already available for the public to see, but also because of how huge of a hit it was one such a low investment for everyone involved. Filmed in front of two sold out crowds at Madison Square Garden, Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain opened up against Despicable Me 2 and The Lone Ranger and still had a ten million dollar weekend and a per screen average that was about $5,000 more per location than Disney’s dud. It has amassed an astounding $30 million to date without ever once playing on more than a thousand screens in North America at once. How it fares in Canada this weekend upon its release here remains to be seen, but Hart has definitely tapped into a loyal following hungry for this kind of release.
As a film, Let Me Explain is what it is. Clocking in at 75 minutes – with the opening 15 devoted entirely to a sketch directed by Barbershop and Fantastic Four director Tim Story about how celebrity has opened Hart up to considerably more scrutiny – the film feels just long enough. Hart isn’t a stand up that relies solely on jokes and observations. He’s an incredibly physical stage presence and performer to the point where it’s almost amazing that he can even pull off the hour of material that he does. Leslie Small directs the stand up portion and keeps up with Hart’s manic energy admirably.
Hart isn’t afraid to go into his own personal shortcomings, especially when talking about how his marriage dissolved thanks to his lying and cheating ways. This comes early on and while it’s emotionally charged, his bits about men and women arguing go on a bit too long. Unlike some of his contemporaries, however, his refreshingly non-sexist approach definitely helps matters. He’s much harder on himself than he is on the women in his life.
Sometimes Hart comes off as a bit grandiose (especially in the pre-show sketch), but other times it leads to his best material. Bits about taking ecstasy and thinking he’s a drug dealer and his inability to hire a proper security team are the real howlers here, but the chuckles come steadily throughout.He’s assuredly one of those “rock star” comics, and he fits the title nicely.
The material here doesn’t seem as fresh as his previous film Laugh at My Pain, but his particular brand of confessional comedy will still find resonance with his fans around the world or anyone who wishes deep down that the stand-up film will make a comeback for other comedians following in Hart’s wake. He’s proven the renewed viability of the genre, but let’s see if its something that can last and continue to play to audiences.