Kevin Hart, who starred in the surprisingly successful “Ride Along” just last month, is back with a much sharper, funnier comedy that is ideal for making the best use of his brash, motormouth persona. Even more important, for the first time Hart appears opposite someone who is every bit his match, the fabulously talented and knock-out gorgeous Regina Hall. It’s one of the best on-screen romantic pairings since Mae West and W.C. Fields. As a funny post-credit scene shows, she not only kept up with him every step of the way, she challenged him to do better. It is clear he is not only upping his game but having a blast.
David Mamet’s play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” was softened a bit for its 1986 movie version, also called “About Last Night,” a romantic comedy starring Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Jim Belushi, and Elizabeth Perkins. But it was still, for its time, provocatively frank in its portrayal of two couples who were navigating a world that was post Mr. Goodbar but pre-AIDS, pre-Tinder, and pre use of the term “booty call.”
Like the original, there is a serious couple and a comic couple. As the movie begins, Bernie (Hart) and Joan (Hall) are each giving their best friends all the details (and I mean all) of the wild, drunken sex within moments of meeting at a bar the night before. Their friends are Danny (Michael Ealy, with a lot of leading man sizzle) and Debbie (Joy Bryant, with one of the best smiles in Hollywood), both serious, stable, and gunshy about relationships following some bad experiences. Bernie and Joan bring their friends along to their second meeting, otherwise known as the “this isn’t a date date.” Bernie and Joan introduce them to each other as “boring,” and that, more than any other reason, prompts them to try to interact and prove that it isn’t true. “I’m not really boring,” Debbie explains. “I just pretend to be so she can be the crazy one.” Debbie and Danny have sex within hours after meeting, uncharacteristic impulsivity for both of them, and then they worry about what it all means.
Danny and Debbie end up moving in together but poor communication, struggles with intimacy, and Danny’s insecurity over losing his job while Debbie is professionally accomplished. No one seems to know what it means to have sex, to live with someone, to say “I love you” first, to decide to get a puppy. And no one is clear about what it should mean — Danny and Debbie want to have a relationship (most of the time) but sometimes it scares them. And when one of them gets scared, the other’s feelings get hurt.
What keeps this part of the story from bogging things down is the energy and oh-no-you-didn’t outrageousness of the bicker/banter, which starts out down and dirty and then gets even down and dirtier. From the opening blast of “Sex Machine” through a series of hilariously explicit conversations swinging back and forth between confident assertions about the most intimate specifics and panicked cluelessness about the basics of any form of interaction out of bed. So, there’s a lot of theories about how to behave and a lot of failure to carry it off. Danny’s problems at work and with an ex are under-written distractions that don’t work as well as the silly fun of a costume party that has Danny and Debbie dressed as Ike and Tina Turner. The energy and chemistry of the four leads keeps things moving so briskly that it diminishes the familiarity of the material. And, more important, it keeps us hoping for a happy ending.
Parents should know that this is a very raunchy comedy. It features extremely explicit sexual references and situations, sexual humor including many jokes about casual sex and various sexual acts and body parts, drinking and drunkenness, drinking games, and marijuana.
Family discussion: Why did Danny keep asking Debbie if they were fighting? Why did Bertie and Joan enjoy making each other angry?
If you like this, try: the original version, starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore (briefly glimpsed in this remake), “He’s Just Not That Into You,” and “Think Like a Man”