The new rom-com remake "About Last Night" finds Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant following in the footsteps of Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, who in the 1986 adaptation of David Mamet's play "Sexual Perversity in Chicago" played a fetching young couple grappling with love and commitment in the big city.
Meanwhile, their two best friends — Jim Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins then, Kevin Hart and Regina Hall now — alternately hook up and bicker.
But while Lowe and Moore's lovebirds were the draw in the first outing, this time it's the comic relief of Hart and Hall leaving an impression on movie critics, many of whom say the film is pretty satisfying, if rather familiar.
In a lukewarm review for the Los Angeles Times, Gary Goldstein says the remake "has little new to offer about romantic entanglements that audiences haven't seen countless times in movies and, especially, on TV sitcoms since 1986, not to mention before that." That said, "The cast does what it can with — and clearly self-improves upon — the essentially thin, at times choppy material. Raunchy motormouth Hart and the irrepressible Hall … provide some big laughs, particularly during outrageous bedroom bits."
The New York Times' A.O. Scott offers a more positive review, writing, "all in all, the thing holds up pretty well." As directed by Steve Pink ("Hot Tub Time Machine"), it's "a sweet, silly, semi-raunchy Valentine's Day confection."
Of Hart and Hall, Scott writes, "it is largely thanks to them that 'About Last Night,' which might have been a pleasant and forgettable date movie, is very often a raucous good time .… Many of the funniest parts seem to arise spontaneously from Mr. Hart's uncensored brain and fast-moving mouth. He can swerve from tears to mock outrage to anatomically detailed obscenities faster than just about any other comic performer working today, and in Ms. Hall he has found an excellent match."
Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune agrees that "the Hart/Hall games of shameless oneupmanship provide 'About Last Night' with the energy it sometimes lacks over on narrative track No. 2." The Ealy and Bryant scenes are "often pretty observant" but "never as much fun to play as the wisecracking, can't-believe-she-just-said-that stuff." In any case, Phillips wrote, "Ealy and Bryant are smooth operators, easy to like. However uneven, the movie at least knows the cardinal rule: In a rom-com, there's no rom without the com. Hart and Hall give it their all."
Jessica Herndon of the Associated Press says the new film "offers a modern spin on the challenges of connecting with strange bedfellows; a reboot that is as satisfying as breakfast in bed the morning after an unexpected rendezvous." She too says that "Hart and Hall are the best part of this film. They play the couple you know all too well: fiery, able to press one another's buttons and always caught in the makeup to breakup game."
USA Today's Claudia Puig calls the movie "frisky fun made all the more entertaining because of the potent chemistry between its quartet of lead actors." She adds that "Hart's 80-mph comic pacing is tough to match, but Hall is equally racy. Their scorched-earth takedowns are fast and furious, sometimes seemingly improvised. The actors appear to enjoy each other's comic energy."
Even the negative reviews tend to have a few good things to say about Hart and Hall. The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle, for example, dings the remake for "vagueness" and having "no dramatic stakes." But LaSalle also adds, "Kevin Hart is an excellent comic actor, very funny but always thinking and feeling, staying open and playing off the other actors. He is well paired with Hall, who matches him for comedy."