Stand-up comedian and actor Kevin Hart created a bit more buzz for himself south of the border earlier this fall with the financial success of his (mostly) stand-up concert film, Laugh at My Pain. The film, released on just over 99 screens in the states the same weekend as the 1700 screen released failure Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, vastly outperformed estimates and became an independent success story. The film finally makes its way to Canada, where it might not play as well in a more crowded movie season, but it’s still a mostly worthy effort for Hart’s fans.
The actual stand-up portion of the film (which only amounts to roughly one hour) is bookended by two shorts, one documentary and one fictional, which are wildly different in terms of their success. The opening finds Hart returning home to his old neighbourhood in Philadelphia. It’s nothing entirely special or even all that enlightening or controversial. It’s good natured and pleasant stuff, but Hart seems to “always be on.” Maybe that’s just who he is and an extension of his animated personality, but he really saves his best material for the actual stage.
The concert that follows takes place in Los Angeles at the last stop for Hart on a successful 90 city tour. It’s here that the audience gets to see Hart in his natural habitat, delivering sometimes squirm inducing confessional material about a fresh out of jail Spongebob hired for his kid’s birthday, his cokehead father, and his mother’s funeral. Much of it hits the sweet spot necessary to create a balance between humour and pathos, but Hart’s delivery is often so repetitive that he seems to be spinning his wheels at times. People who think that constant repetition of the same phrases over and over again is a form of high art will probably get more mileage out of the more grating bits of the show.
Once the act is over, however, the audience in the film gets to go home and those watching in the theatre would be advised to do the same. The film concludes with a dreadfully unfunny fictional short (directed by Barbershop and Fantastic Four director Tim Story) depicting Hart and his entourage’s attempt to rob a bank. The short finds what little joy it has in some clever references to other heist films (nods to Set it Off and Dead Presidents work well, but reciting Reservoir Dogs word for word, not so much) and a cameoing Taraji P. Henson as a prissy bank teller, but it’s ultimately baffling, amateurish, and devoid of any payoff whatsoever. It feels almost like a trailer to a film Hart wanted to make, but never got the chance. It puts a sour ending on an otherwise enjoyable, but slight look at one of stand-ups most established faces.
Cast: Kevin Hart
Directed by: Leslie Small and Tim Story
Top image: A scene from Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain. Courtesy VSC.