Hart’s big personality, wit bolster ‘About Last Night’

Reviewer’s Rating: ★★

Standup comic turned comic actor Kevin Hart, who will be in New Orleans Friday to play in the NBA’s Celebrity All-Star Game, is also hitting the theaters with the Valentine’s Day-timed romantic comedy, “About Last Night.”

A remake of the 1986 romantic-comedy featuring Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, James Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins, “About Last Night” features an African-American cast playing a pair of on-again and off-again couples in Los Angeles.

Hart gets justified top billing. He supersedes his diminutive 5-foot-2-inch height with big personality and rapid wit. Hart nearly overwhelms the movie, too. In what may be a reflection of his standup comic history, the comic occasionally seems to be doing solo routines in “About Last Night.”

Co-star Regina Hall plays Joan, the woman who moves in and out of the Hart character’s life. His Bernie and her Joan are well matched as the movie’s funny, crazy-in-general, sometimes crazy-drunk couple. Michael Ealy’s Danny and Joy Bryant’s Debbie — the film’s sensible, sensitive pair — play counterpoint to the scene-making and scene-stealing Joan and Bernie.

True to Hollywood movie formula, Ealy’s Danny and Bryant’s Debbie are two young, successful, attractive people in a big, dynamic city, a place filled with beautiful young people, who, nonetheless, find themselves alone and discouraged about ever having a successful relationship.

Joy, Debbie’s roommate, is at the beginning of a possible relationship with Bernie, Danny’s co-worker. All four of them gather at a bar one night, after which Debbie goes home with Danny.

Following Danny and Debbie’s first hot night together, a hot debate between Danny and Bernie begins. Bernie tells Danny that by no means should he commit to a relationship with the beautiful, sweet-natured Debbie. A real man must keep his options for sexual adventure with many partners open, Bernie insists.

But for Bernie and his new, almost girlfriend, Joan, it’s a classic example of do as I say, not as I do. Hart and Hall share funny scenes together. Unfortunately, those scenes tend to feel like scenes from a movie other than “About Last Night.”

Of course, couples, relationships, people in general, are ripe for conflict and contraction. Tastes, desires, personalities, careers and friends can all spell trouble for two people trying to make it as a couple. But “About Last Night” — directed by Steve Pink (“Hot Tub Time Machine,” “New Girl”) from a screenplay by Leslye Headland — tells a story in conflict with itself.

The film’s parallel plotlines don’t mesh into a whole. A subplot about a struggling Irish bar exists solely as an excuse to get Danny moping. One of the movie’s big breakups, too, is spurred by purely mechanical, false plot maneuvering.

“About Last Night” further has a datedness in it. Both this update and the 1986 film are based on David Mamet’s 1974 play, “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.” The sexual promiscuity advocated by the cavalier Bernie in the new film has a pre-AIDS recklessness about it.

The “About Last Night” remake also falters in the drama department. Heartbreak is more alluded to than made real. If moviegoers can’t invest themselves in and care about these characters, they’re won’t care if they stay together or not.