'Kevin Hart' a must-see proposition

Actor Kevin Hart. (REUTERS)

Actor Kevin Hart. (REUTERS)

LIZ BRAUN,

, Last Updated: 5:20 PM ET

Compact comic Kevin Hart completed a wildly successful 90-city tour this year and he's got the movie to prove it.

Kevin Hart: Laugh At My Pain, shot over Hart's two-day engagement at LA Live's Nokia Theatre, captures his self-deprecating world view and wicked humour.

The in-concert footage is book-ended by two short movies: An opening gag that has Hart returning triumphant to his old Philadelphia neighbourhood, where he's mostly ignored, and a closing skit in which Hart and friends attempt a bank robbery in the style of Reservoir Dogs.

In between is the meat in this comedy sandwich, just under an hour of Hart on stage doing his manic thing. Almost levitating with energy, Hart bounces around happily as he talks about money, newfound celebrity, friends who are richer than he is and how his daughter's birthday party stacked up against the kid whose dad rented all of DisneyLand for the day.

It's cute material, but Hart is deftly leading his audience into darker and darker family material, putting the fun in dysfunctional as he gets to talking about his mother's funeral and a childhood highlighted by his father's coke habit

Hart's imitation of his father's activities while stoned (and generally without underwear) is a sharply observed routine told from a child's point of view; it is both heartbreaking and hilarious, and an underlying sense that much has been forgiven keeps it all on the up-and-up. Hart may be adept at making light of dark material, but there's something sweet-natured about the guy underpinning it all. Unlike some comics, he doesn't seem to be working from a volcano of repressed anger.

Indeed, Hart is a showman who can mime 23 seconds of frantic sex and make it more funny than offensive -- no mean feat.

Fans of Hart (whose acting career has meant roles in such films as Fool's Gold, Little Fockers and Death At A Funeral) will consider Laugh At My Pain a must-see proposition. This is a film that will likely win new followers for the comic, but it should be said that the mini-movies opening and closing this film are clumsy.

Kevin Hart: Laugh At My Pain dwindles to a close rather than ending on a high note, but never mind. The material in the middle is what the fans came to see.

And it works.

This film is rated 14A.


Videos

Photos