“Kevin Hart: What Now?” is the comedian’s fifth stand-up film since 2009 (the third to be released theatrically), comprising a total of around 6 1/2 hours of stage time. That’s an extraordinary amount of new material for one comedian (there’s no overlap), especially considering he’s been in 21 other movies during that time, too.
Fans might cut him some slack, then, for “What Now?” being only so-so. The culmination of his 2015 concert tour, it was filmed before an audience of 53,000 at a Philadelphia football stadium, and it doesn’t lack for energy. To fill the vast space, Hart has large video screens behind him, some serving as monitors for people in the nosebleeds, others showing backgrounds that complement whatever he’s talking about at the moment. (When he tells a story set on a boat, we see footage of the ocean, as viewed from a yacht.) He sometimes uses sound effects, too, as when ominous thunder sets the mood for an anecdote about watching a scary movie.
These audio-visual aids add flavor, and Hart’s own indefatigable enthusiasm impressively compensates for the cavernous, intimacy-killing size of the stage and arena. His material is new but familiar to those who have followed him over the years: jokes about couplehood and parenthood; jokes about his befuddled father (who thinks the voice in his iPhone is named Cyrus); jokes about sex. An excellent showman, Hart is great at making prepared material feel spontaneous (and vice versa), and at structuring his act to allow for satisfying callbacks to previous bits.
But he gets indulgent, too, with a few meandering, subpar anecdotes and a general disregard for the tightness that most comedians strive for. Whittle away the excess and this 96-minute film could be a very solid 75-minute film. Even with the filler it’s more funny than not, and a remarkable record of one of the decade’s biggest comedy stars.
B- (1 hr., 36 min.; )