Tag Archives: Kevin Hart

“Captain Underpants”

LOUISA: 3.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

If “Captain Underpants” succeeds at one thing, it’s making me realize that I have the sense of humor of an eight year old. The movie, based on the incredibly popular series of children’s books by Dav Pilkey, relies predominantly on potty humor jokes as its core backbone of comedy — and it kept me laughing the entire way through. There aren’t any philosophical nor meaningful lessons to be learned here: it’s just mindless, poop-joke filled fun that celebrates the devotion and importance of a loyal friendship.

The movie tells the story of best friends George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch) and their penchant for cooking up epic pranks that target their mean school principal Krupp (Ed Helms). One day George hypnotizes Krupp with a toy ring and with a snap of their fingers, he becomes the dimwitted (and overly enthusiastic) superhero Captain Underpants.

There’s something innately hilarious about the entire scenario, and the appealing, tidy animation lends the perfect punch to the plot. Watching the doofus Krupp strip down to his tighty whities and jump through windows while trying to save the day is even more enjoyable with the robust primary colors and curvy character styles that comprise the drawings. The animation is cheery, spirited and bright, and I really love how the entire film looks.

Hart, Middleditch, and Helms all give strong, cheery, and amusing vocal performances that perfectly fit their characters. Ditto for Nick Kroll hamming it up as Professor Pippy Pee-Pee Poopypants, the evil scientist with the most unfortunate of names. (Only the most stoic members of society who lack an ounce of a sense of humor won’t be able to resist chuckling at that)!

The story’s bread and butter is its mild rude humor, but at least it shows a deep appreciation (and a genuine celebration) of the fantastic comedy potential that lives in the most simple of fart jokes. The movie works because it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.

Yes, it’s goofy and juvenile, but “Captain Underpants” provides the perfect summer escape for the kiddos that will also entertain fun-loving adults. Now where did I put that whoopee cushion?

“Kevin Hart: What Now?”

LOUISA: 3 STARSMATT: 3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

Kevin Hart is a comedy superstar, a comedian who can command a record-breaking crowd of 50,000 people in a sold out Philadelphia football stadium. “What Now?” is the filmed version of this performance, a standup concert movie that has a few hearty laughs and is sure to please his core fan base.

The movie starts out with an awkwardly unfunny opening bit, an unnecessary parody of James Bond movies that probably looked good on paper but doesn’t translate well to the screen. There are some weird cameos by Ed Helms, Don Cheadle (who gets the most laughs), and Halle Berry; most of the prologue’s storyline was spoiled in the film’s trailers. Once Hart takes the stage with his trademark swagger, things start to heat up.

The stage sets are engaging, changing often to keep things interesting, but Hart himself is so likeable and so confident that he steals the spotlight with his amusing banter. He riffs on everything from his personal life (friends, kids, dad and fiancée) to crazy fans (one insisting on snapping a selfie in an airport bathroom) to sex (there are plenty of racy, raunchy jokes in this R-rated comedy). The jokes run the gamut and while not everything is funny, there are certain to be several bits that strike a chord and will leave you chuckling.

Hart is enjoyable to listen to and fun to watch (he’s physically funny too), but this routine doesn’t really warrant a big screen release and would be better suited for cable. I’d estimate that perhaps 50% of the movie is funny. Of course, it’s not only about the laughs: it’s about the experience of watching it in a theater. This provides a far better communal experience than watching at home (the directors insert just enough crowd reaction shots to really make you feel as if you are sitting right there in the sold out stadium). It isn’t one of the greatest standup movies ever, but it’s a fun way to escape for a couple of hours and presents a good introduction to his brand of wisecracks.

Hart’s humor spans all races, classes and genders, making this an all-inclusive moviegoing experience. This is something that he points out in the film’s ending, saying that “if we can laugh together, we can live together; if we can live together, we can love together.” Truth.

MATT SAYS:

“What Now?” is sure to please fans of Kevin Hart‘s comedy. For the uninitiated, it’s also a good introduction to the comedian and his musings.

Like most of the greats before him, Hart’s comedy is popular because it has a broad, almost universal appeal. In “What Now?” he hits on a number of subjects that most will find relatable: relationships with family, girlfriends and boyfriends; fear of the dark; male-female communications; and how old people deal with new technology. His delivery is natural and conversational, his timing impeccable, and his physicality (both with facial expressions and with the way he moves) is impeccable.

As a concert movie, it’s assembled well. There are just enough crowd reaction shots to help sell the material and make you feel like you’re there, but they aren’t overdone. There’s a communal feeling that you get when you’re attending shows like this one (I was able to catch him on this tour when he came through Vegas) that is captured well on screen and, if you’re sitting with the right audience, can actually translate to the movie theater. It’s actually kind of fun watching movies like this in a (not too) crowded theater where you can listen to other people’s reactions; after seeing a few of these concert films you can really appreciate why they do well in a theatrical release.

While the concert scenes are put together well, what doesn’t work is the narrative framing device that both precedes and follows the actual show. Hart starts the movie in a James Bond-like sequence which has him playing a game of poker against some Russian mobsters. I have no idea why they thought that sequence was a good idea. Hart’s likeable as an actor but the material is just lame and feels like a very flimsy excuse to trot in a parade of cameos from some of Hart’s famous friends (Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Ed Helms). It’s too bad because the poorly-written and unfunny intro fails to warm up the crowd. Fortunately, Hart’s able to quickly overcome this negative momentum when he appears on stage.

“The Secret Life of Pets”

LOUISA:   3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

Anyone who is fortunate enough to share their life with a companion animal will undoubtedly get a kick out of the latest Illumination animated effort, “The Secret Life of Pets.” The film soars when it focuses on animals interacting with their human guardians, with the canine and feline characters acting like real pets do (if my cats could talk, I’m sure they’d converse in  similar dialogue as portrayed onscreen). The first part of the movie is incredibly perceptive and clever, as is the last 10 minutes because it zeroes in on these very relationships (the opening and closing scenes of the movie are touching and have lots of heart). The problem comes in the middle when the story stops being about ‘pets being pets.’ Sadly, the majority of the film lags when it ventures into the dreaded animated movie territory of sheer stupidity.

Loveable human Katie (Ellie Kemper) and her pup Max (Louis C.K.) are the best of friends. Max has several animal buddies that live in the same New York City high rise, including dogs, cats, birds and guinea pigs that stop by for daily visits. When Katie brings home Duke (Eric Stonestreet) from the animal shelter, Max devises a plan to get rid of him. Problem is, the two dogs find themselves lost in the big city and Max’s would-be girlfriend Gidget (Jenny Slate) takes it upon herself to recruit other pets — including the elderly paralyzed basset hound Pops (Dana Carvey) and lonely falcon Tiberius (Albert Brooks) — to bring Max home. Along the way they find themselves at odds with the anarchist gang of “flushed pets,” a group of outspoken, anti-human animals led by former magician’s bunny Snowball (Kevin Hart).

The voice acting runs the gamut from phenomenally good (Slate) to wince inducing (Hart). Slate is perfectly cast as Gidget, a poufy white spoiled little dog who eventually saves the day. She proves herself tenfold as a legitimate voiceover actor, and I hope to see her get more work in animation in the future. There’s no denying that Hart is a super likeable actor, but his portrayal of Snowball the bunny is nothing more than repeated, strained yelling. His overall performance felt so labored and unnatural that listening to him onscreen actually made me uncomfortable. I will not hesitate to nominate Hart for a Razzie award for worst actor of the year because his voice work is that bad.

In the ‘oh no, not again’ category, there’s plenty of dopey, brainless scenarios crammed in with a feeling that their sole existence is to appease young kids. We get yet another ridiculous animal driving a car stunt that we had to endure in this summer’s nearly insufferable “Finding Dory.” In fact, in “The Secret Life of Pets” we get not only a rabbit driving a van but also a lizard driving a bus and a pig driving a taxi.

The absurdity isn’t the only problem: it’s the repetition. The filmmakers must’ve run out of good ideas and instead of moving the story forward, the audience gets the same monotony over and over and over again. I don’t require my animated films to be completely based in reality (there’s a particularly amusing Busby Berkeley inspired musical sequence in a sausage factory), but I do expect more originality than is delivered in this movie. The story at times takes a cynical approach in several places and some of the themes may be too much for sensitive kids (but the film provides a great starting point for a learning opportunity about pets and how animals shouldn’t be viewed as disposable).

At least the animation is commendable, nice and colorful with lively, fully realized backgrounds. It’s visually interesting enough for adults and fans of the genre but it’s also vibrant and bustling enough to keep the kids interested. There’s a lovely original score with a lighthearted, almost vintage sound. For me, the original music in this film is one of the standout elements.

Overall I feel like this film takes a great idea and almost completely wastes the opportunity. This dull, unremarkable action caper is mostly moronic, but the imaginative peek behind the door at an animal’s life when the humans are away is what’s pure gold. I really wish the film had focused on that component. “The Secret Life of Pets” is fine, but isn’t destined for greatness. I’m throwing it a bone with a 3 star rating.


Matt was unavailable for review.

 

“Central Intelligence”

LOUISA:  2 STARS  MATT:  3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart are two of the most likeable people on the planet. I struggle to think of one person who doesn’t love either one or both of these men. Their charisma is one of the only things that works in “Central Intelligence,” the latest half-baked buddy comedy / action movie that Hollywood has churned out.

Johnson plays Bob, a former fat nerd who has since “worked out 6 hours a day, every day, for the last 20 years” and is seriously buff. When Bob travels back to town for his high school reunion, he looks up Calvin the “Golden Jet” (Hart), a popular jock who was always kind back in the day.

You can probably guess where this film is going — Calvin gets tied up in Bob’s CIA troubles, there’s some double crossing, lots of confusion, good guys are bad, bad guys good, yadda yadda yadda. The simple plot is pretty weak; I really wish these two guys had a better movie to work with. The movie is predictable, dumb and the laughs are scarce, but the two leads have a strong appeal that makes it impossible to totally hate this movie.

While the film simply sails along without much going on, there are still two things to like about it (other than the two leads). First, there’s a very strong and positive anti-bullying message at the core of the story. The movie teaches that it’s always right to do the kind thing, and I don’t think anyone can argue with that. Second, I thoroughly enjoyed some of the inspired surprise acting cameos.

There’s simply not enough that works to recommend the movie, but at least it’s good natured and has a heart of gold.

MATT SAYS:

The odd couple of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart team up to solve a mystery featuring espionage, intrigue, and plenty of double- and triple-crossing. Or something. Does it really matter? You had me at “Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart.”

Seriously, who doesn’t like these guys? It was no surprise to me that the movie did huge business on Father’s Day: having gone to the movies that day, we saw packed theater after packed theater of dads out with their families, all of them seeing “Central Intelligence.”

So does it live up to expectations? Sort of. Both are likeable as always, and Johnson gets to do a bit of comedy – which has always been one of his strengths – and Kevin Hart does a good job playing off of him. I had some good laughs early on, but those started to gradually taper off towards the middle, virtually disappearing by the movie’s end. As a comedy, it’s a bit of a wash. No worse than your average Hollywood big summer action-comedy, but not much better, either.

Apart from the laughs, the story is just interesting enough to hold your attention, but it’s no “Pulp Fiction,” either. When the guys start to unravel the clues to figure out who is behind the attempted frame-up of Johnson’s characters, things get increasingly ridiculous and start to try your patience. Fortunately, it’s short enough that it never becomes completely boring.

“Central Intelligence” pairs well with a HALL 2013 Cabernet Franc. Yum!

“Ride Along 2”

LOUISA:  1.5 STARS     MATT:  1 STAR


LOUISA SAYS:

Ice Cube and Kevin Hart are both immensely charismatic actors but their talent far outweighs the weak material they have to work with in “Ride Along 2.” They are both way too good to be starring in such junk. This terribly unfunny movie fails on every level possible. It’s not funny, it’s not exciting, the dialogue is abysmal, the lame gags fall flat, and a coherent plot is nonexistent. By the time the movie picks up some steam with a shipping dock shootout, it’s far too late for salvation. The whole thing feels like stale, sad, reheated leftovers. This ride quickly runs out of gas.

MATT SAYS:

Sadly, the sequel is every bit as worthless and boring as the the first movie. Once again, two very likable actors (Ice Cube and Kevin Hart) are completely wasted, having been saddled with a one-note script. This screenplay feels like it was scribbled in crayon on the back of greasy pizza boxes left over from an all-night “Lethal Weapon” binge watching marathon.

You know a movie’s terrible when the funniest moments come from watching the extras overact and overreact (the extras during the movie’s dumb dance sequence are particularly memorable). If this was the best the filmmakers could do, they should just stop trying. Forget about these characters and leave Hart and Cube to work on other, better projects.