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REVIEW

About Last Night

By Philip Martin

This article was published February 14, 2014 at 2:05 a.m.

joan-regina-hall-imparts-some-new-years-eve-advice-in-the-bawdy-about-last-night

Joan (Regina Hall) imparts some New Year’s Eve advice in the bawdy About Last Night.

Management wants you to know your opinions are important to us.

So in light of your comments after our recent The Wolf of Wall Street review, we now understand that it is important to say this right up front: Steve Pink’s R-rated uptooling (or whatever) of About Last Night is dirty. Smutty. There is sex. There is nudity. While I did not count the number of f-words, there is quite a bit of bad language. There is Kevin Hart, all 60 inches of him, perpetually yapping like a terrier straining on a leash that just barely restrains him from breaking into the dangerous avenues of NC-17.

That is probably all you need to know. Be advised this is not a movie to take your children to see. Or your easily shocked grandmother. But if you like that sort of thing, have at it.

Now we can begin the review.

If you are of a certain age, you might have fond memories of the 1986 movie that shares a name with this current film - that About Last Night … starred Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, and more importantly for me, Jim Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins.It was set in Chicago, which functioned as a kind of character in the story - one of the best things about that film, which was the first feature directed by Edward Zwick. It was written by the sorta great Tim Kazurinsky (who is better known as one of the more obscure Saturday Night Live cast members) who adapted it from David Mamet’s 1974 play Sexual Perversity in Chicago.

I have no doubt that my fondness for this particular movie might diminish if I watched it again, so I resisted the urge to do so when I heard about the new one, which we’ve been asked not to call a “remake.” I figured the new movie has the right to work or not work on its own terms, that it deserves to be considered apart from its 28-year-old antecedent.

Yet when I watched the current About Last Night, which is directed by Steve (Hot Tub Time Machine) Pink, I could not help but be reminded of the older film. Pink has transposed the film into an “urban” key - which is code for saying it features a predominantly black cast and is targeted primarily at a black audience - and shifted the location from Chicago to Los Angeles. And while the former move does no harm whatsoever to the movie (in fact, you could make the case that this cast is better than that of the 1986 film) the latter seems to me disastrous. Los Angeles may play itself in About Last Night, but it’s a flat performance that conveys little other than a place to put things. It’s not exactly that there’s no there there - you can occasionally glimpse a landmark in the background - it’s that L.A. is by nature a much different creature from Chicago. It’s a provisional, changeling city and by moving it there Pink (or whoever made that decision) effectively removes a major supporting performance.

But the plot (our focus groups say you want more plot!) is basically unchanged. Pretty boy Michael Early as Danny, the Lowe role, and special effect Hart as Bernie, who corresponds to Belushi’s role, are best buds and running buddies. Bernie is a libertine who frequently hooks up with Joan (Perkins in 1986/ Regina Hall today) who has a roommate/best bud named Debbie (Moore/Joy Bryant) with whom Danny falls in love. Parallel stories of modern love unfold, and various tensions develop among the four. Some fairly truthful things about the nature of men and women, love and sex, get said in the course of the movie.

I don’t remember the 1986 film ending in the same way this one does, but that’s not the reason I felt disappointed by it.

As in the first movie, it’s the party couple that make the better impression - Early and Bryant come off as kind of bland, and it doesn’t help that the script continually sticks them in implausible or silly situations.

So for the record, Hart is a useful performer who is probably better when he’s not a given movie’s main drawing card (as he is here). At this stage of his career he’s more D. Wade or Scottie than LeBron or Michael. That’s not a knock, but he needs a few more tools - he has yet to acquire a talent for being quiet onscreen.

The real surprise here is Hall, who seems to relish her raw and ribald turn as Joan. She’s almost worth the price of admission.

But be advised, she does cuss a bit.

About Last Night 82

Cast: Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Michael Early, Joy Bryant Director: Steve Pink Rating: R, for sexual content Running time: 100 minutes

MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 02/14/2014

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