by George Wolf
About Last Night opens cold to the funky sound of James Brown’s “Sex Machine,” which is good because a) that song is awesome and b) it lets you know this remake has more “movin’, doin’ it, you know” on the brain than the 1986 original.
Of course, both films are based on David Mamet’s 1974 play Sexual Perversity in Chicago, though Mamet long ago dismissed its move to the big screen, recalling his selling of the work an act of “a callow youth.”
This latest adaptation strays even farther from the source work, as the setting moves West to LA, where buddies Danny (Michael Ealy) and Bernie (Kevin Hart) sell restaurant supplies by day and hit the bars in search of hookups by night.
While Bernie is enjoying a new sex kitten named Joan (Regina Hall), Danny is still hurting from a recent breakup. So, why not make it a double date with Joan’s friend Debbie (Joy Bryant) and see what happens? Well, we know what happens, but the setup underscores the fact that this time out, Debbie and Danny aren’t really the main attraction.
Whether that decision was made before casting the role of Bernie or not, Hart simply owns this movie. He’s fast, frenetic, charismatic and often uproarious, with Hall nearly matching him step for step in their raunchy back and forth. The Bernie and Joan characters were never made a couple before, but here, they are the only couple we care about.
Bryant and Ealy may both be great looking, but beyond a physical attraction, nothing about Debbie and Danny rings true.
Director Steve Pink (Hot Tub Time Machine) and screenwriter Leslye Headland (Bachelorette) want to make their film funny, while still keeping the original focus on the complexities of modern relationships. The funny works, nothing else does.
The Debbie/Danny love story ventures only surface deep, giving the entire relationship a rushed feel that brings no emotion to the highs and lows of their life together. Flat performances from both Bryant and Ealy don’t help, nor does a disastrous cameo from Paula Patton as Danny’s ex, proving once again she has zero comic timing.
Thanks to Hart and Hall, about half of About Last Night is a damn funny sex comedy.
The rest may leave you hating yourself in the morning.