Credit: Frank Masi

The beginning of Kevin Hart: What Now? feels less like a standup special and more like an elaborate James Bond spoof, introducing the titular comedian as Agent 0054 and various celebrities as themselves, including Ed Helms and Don Cheadle. All the hallmarks are here—the nasty villain, the tense card games, Halle Berry as an easily bored Bond Girl—and at first, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was just another Hart comedy. After all, the longtime standup comic has recently landed top roles in movies like Central Intelligence, Ride Along 2, and the upcoming Jumanji.

However, the laughs really start when Hart ditches the tuxedo and returns to standup, taking the stage at Lincoln Financial Field in his hometown of Philadelphia. His stature may be smal—something that the self-deprecating Hart constantly pokes fun at —but with his latest standup special, he proves that his zany energy can easily fill a football stadium. Like most comics, Hart shines when he gets personal, recounting stories about his goofy family or his raccoon nemesis. He’s at his best when he’s waxing poetic about his own neuroses and selfishness, and most of his bits revolve around how if he were ever forced to choose between himself and the people he loves, he’d choose himself every time. (That includes forcing his 7-year-old son to take out the trash because Hart is afraid of the dark and explaining why he’d have to leave his girlfriend if she lost her shoulder in an orangutan attack.)

When Hart goes broad, however, he isn’t quite as funny. A bit about the hassles of ordering at Starbucks, for example, doesn’t feel very fresh in 2016. And as Hart’s fame has grown exponentially, his material has changed, too. He jokes about his family, but now, it’s about how private school has changed his son. He jokes about airport bathrooms, but now, it’s about awkward run-ins with fans. Still, Hart’s exuberance make him a captivating performer—and his energetic delivery helps even the most mediocre jokes land. B–

Kevin Hart: What Now?

  • Movie
  • R
  • 96 minutes