Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain (2013) / Comedy-Documentary
MPAA Rated: R for pervasive language including sexual references
Running time: 75 min.
Cast: Kevin Hart
Director: Leslie Hall, Tim Story
Screenplay: Kevin Hart, Harry Ratchford, Joey Wells
Review published July 6, 2013
The tagline of Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain is "Witness the Rise of a Legend," which is bold stuff to state when he's trotting out some of his weakest stand-up material to date. It's a film so vain that it could only be defended by the staunchest of fans. And yet, he's pushing it out there as a theatrical release in order to increase his popularity. The amount of people who know who Kevin Hart is may certainly increase through more exposure, but mostly those people will likely be in the, "I don't much like Kevin Hart" camp than in gaining any converts with material that vastly oversells Hart's popularity in the world of show-biz and his prowess as a comedian.
Kevin Hart is a stand-up comedian and regular supporting player in the world of comedies, known for his diminutive size (he stands at 5'2") and energetically brash behavior. As his popularity has risen, so has his scrutiny, as Hart takes great time in this film to address his infidelity, divorce, DUI, accusations that he has turned his back on darker-skinned women, and that he is a LAB (aka, "Local Ass Bitch", a phrase that was likely made up for this movie, meaning his popularity doesn't reach beyond his own turf.)
While it's true, most of the world barely knows Kevin Hart (the few who recognize him on the street know him from the god-awful comedy, Soul Plane), you'd never know it from this mostly stand-up performance, filmed on his home turf of New York's Madison Square Garden, where we get to repeatedly see a select handful of people consistently shown doubled over with laughter, as if to let us know that what we just heard was found to be uproariously funny by someone.
The bulk of Hart's act consists of telling his fans about his perpetual lies, his amicable break-up with his wife, relationship cues, friendship and loyalty, and his phobia of being touched by the homeless. Some of this is funny, some of it is not, but what really isn't funny is the 20-minute introduction before getting to the stand-up act which runs like an infomercial for Hart's popularity, showcasing his performances in various venues in Canada and Northern Europe. It's almost as if the whole enchilada is trying to shove his popularity in the face of all his naysayers, whomever they may be, that he is one of the most popular comedians in the world.
As funny as Hart is, what also makes Let Me Explain feel like a vanity piece of Eddie Murphy Raw proportions is that it makes him look like a pretty despicable guy at times. His disgust at imagining a homeless man touching him is snooty enough as it is, but his comedy routine is basically a repudiation of the dissolution of his marriage, which wouldn't have happened if his friends would have backed him up on the lies he tells his (now ex-)wife. When Hart veers from the unsavory personal stuff, which doesn't happen until perhaps the final half hour, he begins to get better footing, with material on a night of craziness after he and his significant other drop ecstasy, or his difficulty in learning how to properly ride a horse.
While this material has its moments, the main thrust of it seems too egotistical and determinedly (and distastefully) angry at internet trolls who surely must have gotten under Hart's skin. Normally, Hart is quite a funny personality to watch, with his Chris Tucker-like boisterous reactions, funny voices, and frenetic delivery that makes him someone funny just to watch from a performance standpoint, especially the way he carries material using his face and body mannerisms that might not be funny if said by any other comedian. Hart also seems genuinely happy when he is greeted by people who know who he is; in one scene that play during the credits, he determine to walk the streets and seek the out personally, hoping that someone, anyone, will recognize him. It's more indication of Hart's immense ego, but when he comes to realize that he has, indeed, made it by selling out Madison Square Garden (and two nights in a row, no less), he endearingly pours the love to his fans right back.
Let Me Explain is a bit of a strange theatrical release, as Hart isn't quite the international superstar that Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy had been at the top of their game in an era where there was no YouTube or Comedy Central to watch their comedy performances. While Hart does have his fans, as incontrovertibly evidenced by this footage, I would state that this film is likely only going to be enjoyed by those who already love Hart. Those who don't get his brand of humor will pass, while those who've never heard of the guy will wonder why he is making such a big ado about himself when his biggest claim to comedy fame is the amount of hits he has gotten on his YouTube postings. What's next? A 'Grumpy Cat' movie?
©2013 Vince Leo