“What now?” is an apt question for comedian Kevin Hart to ask himself at this point in his career. What could possibly be next? At 37, Hart has had a career of a lifetime, playing countless shows worldwide, having three concert films released theatrically in the last five years, and owning a prolific film career to boot. InKevin Hart: What Now?, his longest theatrically released concert film at 96 minutes surprisingly, Hart comes full-circle in a sense, performing before 53,000 at the Lincoln Financial Field, where the Philadelphia Eagles play, in his hometown.
“We sold a football stadium out tonight!,” Hart proudly proclaims at the start of his standup, and at the end of the special, tells us that he saw people of all different races, classes, and religions come together to laugh. “If we can laugh together, we can live together, and love together,” Hart states as he gets a bit sentimental. These wise words come in the middle of what he claims to be the best day of his life, but at this rate, and with his kind of monstrous success, we know he’ll have many more of them down the line.
Kevin Hart: What Now? follows in the footsteps of his previous specials, Laugh at My Pain and Let Me Explain, right down to their presentation, their introduction featuring a dopey little skit, and once again being directed by Leslie Small. This kind of consistency is a fitting theme for the show, as Hart proves that he hasn’t really changed nor compromised his formula since his humble beginnings in comedy clubs and on Comedy Central Presents. He realizes that high-energy, various impressions, keen observations, both social and racial, and outlandish stories that are nothing but unbelievable no matter how many times he assures they are true make up his style and he continues to run with it, both figuratively and literally.
Hart’s glimmers of comedic talent are here in full-swing, particularly the way he crafts these crazy stories, continuing to emphasize a slew of minor, hilarious details before bringing them all together at the conclusion of the special. My personal favorite was his confusion as to why black women have an inability to believe anything. He states that you could tell a woman that the floor is slippery, and they’ll simply look at you in disbelief. “Slippery? Really?,” Hart says in an exaggerated manner, elongating the syllables with an effeminate voice.
He persists on, projecting his feelings on observations I’ve long-had on things like male sex toys, which are far more taboo than female sex toys, in addition to the lunacy of ordering at Starbucks. “Do you people have any idea what you’re asking for?,” Hart asks the large-portion of the audience that claims to regularly buy coffee at Starbucks following his difficult experience ordering a vanilla latte. These moments of monologues merged with the highly energized, physicality of a tireless Hart showcase a delicate balance that he has got down to a science.
The only downside to the show is, once again, Hart feels the need to include a terribly unfunny, overwrought skit about what precedes Hart’s show, directed once again by Tim Story. It involves Hart and Halle Berry ripping off a casino, which has Don Cheadle playing at a poker table and Ed Helms as a bartender. For as many talented people you can get in one sequence, it’s amazing just how much of a plodding delay this whole thing feels like.
Kevin Hart was always a much better standup comedian than an actor, in my mind. In movies, such as Ride Along and Think Like a Man, Hart always gets the role of the loud, obnoxious black stereotype, and only in small doses with this archetype – like in Grudge Match – is he at his most effective. On stage, being himself and offering his insights is where he truly truly shines. His talent and charisma is meant to be captured before a roaring crowd. He may not be consistently funny, but he is consistently entertaining, and What Now? is the peak of his career in the regard that he can either begin dialing back a bit or add levels to a mountain he’s entirely traversed. Whatever his choice will be, you can bet it will be entertaining to watch.