Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, February 21, 2014

The Critic's Corner

About 'About Last Night'

Imagine going to a party and meeting two couples: Bernie and Joan, and Danny and Debbie. You immediately like the first pair; they’re crazy, funny, and a bit naughty. They bicker a lot, then make up, then embarrass everyone with a public display of affection, and finally have a knock-down, drag-out fight that ends in ultimatums and her slamming the exit door. As you’re returning to your car, you see them in the parking lot, making up. Definitely the life of the party.

Danny and Debbie, not so much. They’re friendly, but you don’t find them engaging. In fact, five minutes into talking with them, the exit door is starting to look pretty good. He sells restaurant supplies, she does something vague for a company that does something vague, and they have a dog and a shared ability to nurse the same drink all evening. On the scale of dullness, there are butter knives, then mud, and then Danny and Debbie.

That wouldn’t be a problem except you’re stuck with them for the evening. Everyone else has split into small cliques, and you and the Double D’s are the odd ones out.

This experience is similar to watching “About Last Night,” a romantic comedy set in present day Los Angeles. Bernie and Joan are a hoot, but for the most part, you’re stuck watching Danny and Debbie.

“About Last Night” is a remake of an ‘80s movie of the same name and a ‘70s David Mamet play called “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.” The play examines the sex lives of two men and two women in the 1970s. It’s filled with profanity, and ends on a fiercely bitter note. The ‘80s movie examined the sex life and relationship of Danny and Debbie, whose friend, Bernie – famously played by Jim Belushi – handled the profanity. Sadly, the filmmakers tacked a feel-good ending onto the story.

The remake once again follows Bernie, Joan, Danny, and Debbie. Bernie and Joan handle the profanity, and the actors playing Danny and Debbie do their best to stay awake while marching lockstep through a cliche-ridden romance. Or was that me trying to not fall asleep?

The remake includes a scene in which Danny and Debbie watch the ‘80s film together, and one of them says, “I love this movie!” Later, Bernie raises a shot glass at a bar and says, “Here’s to another night of sexual perversity in Los Angeles!” Beyond that, the film has mutated almost beyond recognition from its original DNA.

As of the writing of this review, “About Last Night” is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 75 percent. I think most of those critics did fall asleep during the scenes featuring Danny and Debbie, and woke up only for the few blissfully funny moments centered on Bernie and Joan.

Actor Kevin Hart’s skills as a comedian and an actor are on full display in his performance as Bernie. He’s quick, funny, and full of energy, even in his scenes with Michael Ealy, who plays Danny. Hart likes to improvise, and while it seems director Steve Pink asked him to stick to the script, some scenes do come across as off the cuff – and they’re even funnier than what was clearly on the page. His final scene with Regina Hall, the actress who plays Joan, is hysterical.

Unfortunately, viewers are stuck watching Danny and Debbie meet, fall in love, bicker, and... You know the drill. Nothing feels genuine or is even remotely funny except for a scene in which Debbie dares Danny to answer the door naked when the pizza delivery guy arrives. They nitpick and bicker because that’s what the screenplay tells them to do, not because it makes sense at the time.

While I didn’t care for the ending of the ‘80s film, “About Last Night” was one of my favorite movies of that decade. Rob Lowe and Demi Moore were in their prime, and their scenes together were hot. None of the heat of the movie, or the bitter irony of the play, are on display in the remake.

But there is Hart and Hall, and they alone make “About Last Night” worth watching. Just don’t fall asleep when Danny and Debbie are onscreen, or you’ll miss the good stuff.

Two stars out of four. Rated R for sexual content, language, and brief drug use.