The comedian captivates an SRO crowd at Madison Square Garden — but to get to that part, movie audiences are subjected to 15 minutes of self-promotion
You know how sites like YouTube and Hulu sometimes force you to sit through a commercial before you finally get to watch the material you came to see? "Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain" may be the first movie with its own built-in annoying pre-show announcements, but at least the audience's patience is rewarded with some spectacular stand-up.
Hart's been very busy in various media for the last several years, getting rave reviews for his satirical BET series "Real Husbands of Hollywood" and stealing scenes in films like "Think Like a Man."
But Hart is, first and foremost, a stand-up comic. His previous concert film, "Laugh at My Pain," pulled in nearly $8 million in limited release (with a purported budget of $750,000), and now "Let Me Explain" sees the comic not only packing houses in the U.S. but also in Scandinavia, where he apparently has a fervent YouTube following.
It's the comedy that should be front and center in "Let Me Explain," but the movie decides to make us wait for it. We begin with some bracketing material that shows Hart at a party being confronted by strangers about his strained relationship with his father, and his supposed unwillingness to date dark-skinned women, and this leads the comedian to leave in a huff, heading straight to Madison Square Garden, where he promises to "explain" everything.
Bad enough that this opening segment (directed by Tim Story; the actual performance footage is directed by Leslie Small) isn't particularly funny; it also winds up being pointless, since neither of those topics is addressed in the stand-up act that Hart later performs in the Garden (to a sold-out crowd).
Oh but wait, this opening bit isn't the only footage that stands between viewers and Hart's stand-up act: Next, we get a montage of his successful global tour, which means Hart doing the "thank you and good night!" bit over and over, Hart and his friends goofing around backstage and on the tour bus, and Hart fans proclaiming their love for him, plus a few animated arrows showing the tour making its way through Canada and then Europe.
For all its attempts to sell us on the idea of Kevin Hart's fame, it's the performer himself who makes the point more effectively than all the screaming Danes they can put on camera. So when "Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain" finally becomes the comedy concert film it's intended to be, it completely works. For an hour or so, Hart tells stories about his recent divorce, horseback riding lessons, failed attempts at lying, the head positions of crazy people and countless other subjects, and his riffs come fast and furious.
In his stage act and his role as "himself" on "Real Husbands," Hart has created a unique personality, both put-upon and hostile, fast-talking and too smart for his own good. It's that entertaining dichotomy that plays itself out throughout his stand-up, and in "Let Me Explain" we see a performer who can talk to thousands of people in a crowded amphitheater and make each audience member feel like they're being addressed directly.
It's a rare gift, and Hart's talents get a great pedestal in this film — once it shuts up and finally lets him take the stage.