Comedian Kevin Hart's career to date has been a mixed bag. He has made millions laugh with his stand-up act (in comedy clubs and on tour), on television and in the movies sometimes as a supporting character and sometimes as the star including, of course, his concert films featuring his stand-up. He has written and produced for TV and movies (mostly, but not exclusively, for himself). His comedy projects have consistently made handsome profits, but have received mixed reviews from critics and, in some cases, audiences. As someone who tries to maintain the balance between movie reviewer and Movie Fan, here's how I see Kevin Hart's effectiveness in some of his films: "Grudge Match", "The Wedding Ringer", "Get Hard" funny. "Ride Along", "Ride Along 2", "Central Intelligence" mildly amusing. His 2016 concert movie "Kevin Hart: What Now?" (R, 1:36) not funny. Please, let me explain.
Kevin Hart's 2016 concert film opens with a significant, but irrelevant sequence in which he plays a James Bond type of character (opposite Halle Berry) and participates in a high-stakes poker game, a la Daniel Craig's first Bond outing, "Casino Royale". In this opener for Hart's film (basically a movie within a movie), production values are high and the acting is good (including cool cameos by Don Cheadle and others), but there are few laughs and the whole thing has almost nothing to do with what comes next.
After his spy adventure, Hart appears at a packed Lincoln Financial Field (home of the NFL's Eagles) in Philadelphia where he performs his usual type of stand-up routine with some social and political commentary and a whole lot of stories and jokes based on his family life and other personal experiences all infused with his signature brand of physical comedy. Most of his jokes come from how ridiculous he thinks the members of his family are and what people would be like if they were deprived of various parts of their body (e.g. arms and legs, shoulders, etc.) due to a variety of extraordinary mishaps.
Of course, this being a comedy concert film, there are plenty of shots of people in the crowd laughing at Hart's antics and repeating some of the lines he uses. He performs with nothing but a mic and a stool, but is backed up by large video screens with images illustrating some of the stories he tells. Then, at the end of his routine, there's a brief scene in which Hart picks up where he left off with Halle Berry and seems to be teasing a future project basically answering the question posed in his concert film's title.
The movie commits the greatest possible sin of a comedy concert film not being very funny. The laughs from Hart's live audience were seldom echoed in the crowded theater where I saw the movie. No wonder. Comedy usually plays better in person than on a screen and people are more primed to enjoy comedy the more time and money they spend to see it (as in, the cost of a live show that you went to in a large venue, versus a cheaper ticket in a comparatively small movie theater), but the main problem with this film is the comedy itself. Hart talks at length about far-fetched situations that are more bizarre than funny. He also refers to his family members (father, children and fiancé) in ways that are more disrespectful than humorous. What's more, much like in his movies, Hart relies too much on his over-the-top facial expressions for laughs. Occasionally entertaining, but rarely laugh-out-loud funny, "Kevin Hart: What Now?" gets a "C-".