‘Comedian Kevin Hart has a restless mind that wanders freely from the mundane to the absurd. A story about a pesky raccoon in his back yard, for instance, leads to Hart’s fear of his loved ones being attacked by animals and becoming so disfigured that it’s best to abandon them.
His latest concert film, “Kevin Hart: What Now?,” documents a sold-out appearance at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, part of his wildly successful 2015 tour of the same name. But the movie’s pleasures lie in its simplest element: Hart’s storytelling.
Creating vivid characters along the way, Hart uses his whole body to sell a joke. His expressive face gets his biggest laughs with a recurring joke about black women who don’t believe anything you say. (Explaining to his girlfriend that he was out all night playing ping-pong, she replies, “Ping-pong?!” REALLY?”) Despite the free association, Hart has fine-tuned his routine for the most efficient structure and timing.
Yet at times the film and concert producers seem to lose faith in Hart’s ability. Stadium staging projects images behind Hart, such as a long driveway when he tells us about his long driveway. The concert audience may have needed the spectacle, but Hart paints a vivid enough picture without the visual aid.
Furthermore, to pad the film to feature length, the performance is framed by a spy movie parody with Hart playing himself as a James Bond figure, with Halle Berry (as herself) at Hart’s side as he wins a high-stakes poker game against Don Cheadle (as himself), among others.
Hart doesn’t need the help. “What Now?” is at its best when it focuses on his comic presence. Even if his jokes don’t all land, his train of thought is all you need for an entertaining performance that is funny, angry and sometimes just weird.
Two and one-half stars. Rated R. Contains graphic violence, strong language and sexual material. 96 minutes.
Ratings Guide: Four stars masterpiece, three stars very good, two stars OK, one star poor, no stars waste of time.