The first half had me in stitches of helpless hilarity, but by the time comic Kevin Hart wrapped up his latest standup concert film with a series of tasteless sex jokes, I wanted out.
Hyped to the hilt, Kevin Hart: What Now? is the comedian's first standup film since 2011's mega-selling Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain.
It captures for posterity one of the most successful standup tours of all time, which had Hart playing to packed stadium crowds. (Forbes recently listed him as 2016's highest-paid comedian, with an income of $87.5 million over the year from June 2015.) And there's something undeniably special about the film's location, which finds Hart back home in Philadelphia.
Shot over two nights in August 2015 at Lincoln Financial Field, the movie shows Hart effortlessly bedazzling a massive audience of 53,000 - per night.
The 96-minute film opens with about 10 minutes of filler, a non sequitur scene that's a takeoff on Daniel Craig's James Bond flick Casino Royale. A tuxedoed Hart makes wisecracks as he plays high-stakes poker. Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, and Amechi Okocha costar.
Come on, man, let's get on with the standup, already.
Any initial irritation is forgotten when Hart finally gets down to business at the Linc.
Dressed in a gold-zippered black leather jacket and gold-topped sneakers, a gold-colored mic in his hand, the diminutive comic dominates the massive space.
Hart's routines are finely observed riffs on everyday things. He talks about life with fiancée Eniko Parrish, referring to her only as "my lady," and about his two kids from his previous marriage to Torrei Hart.
His set jokes that son Hendrix, who was 7 at the time, wears flip-flops and talks like his white private-school chums, while daughter Heaven, who was 11, has already picked up a trait Hart says all black women share - to doubt everything men tell them. ("Oh, reaaaalllly?" he mimics in falsetto.)
He takes ordinary events to their craziest, most surreal extreme. In an extended meditation about his fear of being attacked in his driveway at night by unseen critters, he describes how a raccoon mock-shoots him with its fingers. That leads into a routine about how people's lives will change if they have a shoulder or both kneecaps gnawed off by wild beasts.
Hart is simply brilliant at physical comedy, hopping around the stage to evoke a man with no kneecaps bowling.
There are funny scatological bits here, too, including a wonderfully nasty one involving airport bathrooms and a camera-wielding fan.
Hart's comedy becomes more uneven when he ventures into sex. The blue jokes aren't bad, but they are far less creative than his other material. Sometimes, they just feel gratuitous, especially when Hart's willingness to poke fun at himself seems to be outstripped by a need to brag about his virility.
Part of the problem lies with the venue. When it comes to standup, bigger is not better. One-man shows work better in smaller spaces. In his bid to proclaim his giant stature as an entertainer, Hart loses himself.
Kevin Hart: What Now?
2 1/2 (Out of four stars)
Directed by Leslie Small and Tim Story. With Kevin Hart, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Ed Helms. Distributed by Universal Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 36 mins.
Parent's guide: R (sexual material, profanity).
Playing at: Area theaters.