‘Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain’ finds the comic turning on himself

Kevin Hart packs Madison Square Garden for his second film, "Let Me Explain." Credit: Summit Entertainment
Kevin Hart packs Madison Square Garden for his second film, “Let Me Explain.”
Credit: Summit Entertainment

‘Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain’
Directors: Leslie Small, Tim Story
Genre: Stand-Up Film
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

Kevin Hart’s rise to fame has been a peculiar one. A Philly-born comedian who sells out arenas, Hart should be anointed as the next Eddie Murphy. And yet, instead of being a household name, Hart remains an on-the-fringe entity.

“Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain,” his latest stand-up concert movie, almost seems like Hart reminding people why his hype is warranted. A chunk of the first half has him touring all over Canada and Europe, playing sold-out shows to grateful, foreign folk who only know him from YouTube clips (and, for some reason, his 2004 bomb “Soul Plane”). The concert bulk of the show has him performing a sold-out, racially mixed Madison Square Garden crowd, a feat that’s been rarely achieved by comics. He’s almost subtly reminding people that even Murphy at his megastar prime couldn’t pull that off. (Lest we forget, “Eddie Murphy Raw” was filmed in Madison Square Garden’s less spacious Felt Forum.)

Even though Hart hits the stage like a comic rock star, coming out to fiery pyrotechnics and rocking an all-black outfit featuring a leather shirt and a gold chain, he consistently spends his set making himself the butt of his own jokes. Whereas “Laugh at My Pain,” his first stand-up film, had him opening up about his dysfunctional family upbringing, “Let Me Explain” shows Hart mostly riffing on his bad luck with women, especially with his ex-wife. He chalks up their breakup to him being a bad liar — something he admits he can’t stop doing (he dips into a lengthy, exaggerated bit which involves a man-baby and a “deerbra”) — as well as his friend not helping him out when he was caught cheating.

Usually acting manic and blustery, Hart gets the most laughs when he talks about his experiences with less-than-sane ladies, often contorting his body to show how nutty women get when they think their man has been creeping. As a comedian, Hart’s most winning strengths have not only been his ability to make fun of himself, but also his willingness to appear imperfect and vulnerable onstage, which is practically a rarity in the infallible, I-ain’t-no-punk world of black stand-up comedy.

By the end of the performance and the film, Hart tearfully thanks his audience for being there and helping him get to be one of the few comics who can sell out a venue like the Garden. He may not be at that Eddie Murphy level of superstardom yet, but as this movie shows Hart is thankful as hell for all the fans who do know his name.


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