If you're like me, the first introduction you had to Kevin Hart, as an actor, was in his brief but memorable appearance in 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin,' as the guy harassing Romany Malco about a stereo (he's officially listed as 'Smart Tech Customer'). Of course, that movie came out after the 2004 release of 'Soul Plane' – the somewhat tepid reception of which is referenced here in the introduction of 'Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain' – and after Hart had been in several other productions (both film and television) and, considering the nature of what we're about to review here, the birth of his career as a stand-up comedian.
In that regard, 'Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain' is two products in one. On one hand, it is the latest stand-up routine from a comedian whose popularity is increasingly on the rise, while on the other, it serves as a sort of celebration of the celebrity and recognition that Hart has been able to achieve and the status to which he has risen – the film, and Hart himself, don't exactly hide the fact that the show filmed for this release is a sold-out performance by the comedian at Madison Square Garden, a feat only accomplished by five other comedians before him.
And why should he? That's certainly an accomplishment worthy of note, and passing it off as no big deal would almost certainly come off as either aloof or ungrateful – traits that don't exactly seem to be in Hart's repertoire. As a comedian, he exudes all sorts of wild, manic energy that keeps his act going and helps it to get from bit to bit without feeling like he's just setting up a string of jokes or one liners. His style isn't so much conversational as it is an adroit combination of storytelling and playacting that starts high and ends high. And yet, despite being on stage for about an hour and occasionally near an open flame, Hart never seems to break a sweat – literally, where other comedians are wiping their faces just from walking back an forth, Hart is practically doing a marathon and there's nary a trace of perspiration on him.
At any rate, Hart's performance is certainly the centerpiece of 'Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain,' but the film itself is actually broken up into two segments; basically two parts that don't necessarily add up to something greater. Like other comedians before him (most notably Eddie Murphy), Hart stages an introduction filmed almost like a small movie that's also part documentary – or at least it turns into one. The early part of the show is like 'Cloverfield' in that we get a handheld glimpse of Hart and his friends hanging out at a party, and through a series of insults he receives from people attending his soiree, the comedian abruptly decides he's going to play MSG. This leads to a few relatively unfunny encounters with his friends – all of whom try to talk him down (as a way of telling the audience just what an enormous undertaking it is for a comedian to want to play in front of a crowd of people 30,000 strong). It's a not-so-subtle way of making a point, but the film goes one step further by transitioning into a documentary that follows Hart and the Plastic Cup Boyz, as he embarks on a tour across Canada, then over to Scandinavia, and eventually England.
All the while, Hart and his friends/employees/co-writers are captured either amongst his fanbase, or in self-deprecating search for them. The documentary aspect does a nice job of showing the admittedly strange place Hart is in his career at the moment (something he brings up in his routine about hiring security that is either incapable or overzealous) where he is recognized in certain parts of the world for being a comedian, while in other places he only attracts attention because he has a camera crew following him around. Sadly, there's not much in the way of discussion on this interesting aspect of fame, which, given the access the cameras had, could have been better documented and perhaps even taken to another level. But alas, this is not an investigation to find out exactly how big Hart has gotten in his career, but to acknowledge the gigantic step he has taken selling out one of the most recognizable arenas in North America.
And so, as the documentary goes on and spends more time with Hart's crew complaining about being on a bus for 10 hours with a bunch of dudes who have questionable hygiene, one starts to wonder exactly when the actual comedy is going to get started (let's be honest, the guys in Hart's entourage aren't exactly hilarious). Although it's only about 15 minutes of the film's total run time of 75 minutes, the introductory film/documentary probably runs about twice as long as it needs to. As a result, by the time Hart finally comes out on stage, there's a mix of incredibly high expectations and a small feeling that some of the wind has been taken out of the sails.
Still, to his credit, Hart manages to start his show off with a bang (or bursts of open flames, rather) and soon after has quickly found his groove and gotten the comedy off and running. For the most part, Hart's routine in 'Let Me Explain,' despite being quite candid, feels a little familiar. It's still humorous stuff, and he sells almost all of it with incredible bursts of energy and demonstrations of his comfort with physical comedy – where he uses his diminutive stature to great comedic effect. Hart uses the rest of his time to talk about his divorce, the idea of marriage as a whole, crazy women, lying, and how his friends fail when he's thinking about cheating. All of this is typically punctuated by Hart uttering the phrase, "Let me explain."
Unfortunately, Hart ends his routine so abruptly (so that he can thank the crowd, which features Taraji P. Henson) that you're left wondering if he's about to do a lengthy encore. Sadly, it quickly cuts to the credits, so we can see more of Hart and his crew running around Europe. All in all, 'Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain' could be a fun introduction to his brand of hyperactive comedy for those who are unfamiliar, but for his fans it may come off feeling too familiar. It's certainly not bad, but its recognizable, truncated feel keeps this comedy special from reaching great heights.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain' comes from Summit Entertainment as a 25GB Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Download combo pack. The Blu-ray has load of previews before it, but they can all be skipped to jump to the main menu, where you can access them one by one if you like.
As it was filmed in 2012, 'Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain' features great image quality throughout both the early introduction (though some segments don't look too great) and into the actual performance – where it's clear great effort was taken in making sure the presentation of the material would look its best from start to finish. And it does. The 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 encoded transfer looks very nice, and gives a detailed, colorful image throughout. While the cameras keep their distance for the most part – likely so the audience can get a better feel for the stage – there are plenty of examples where closer shots reveal a good deal of fine detail in Hart's face and in the texture of his clothing. The same goes for the crowd shots, but as they are in a slightly dimmer environment, there is some decline in the amount of detail that's present.
Contrast levels remain high throughout, though there's little reason for it to change, as the performance takes place in a highly contained environment, but it gains high marks for keeping the intense lights of the stage from overwhelming the image. Additionally, colors are very bright and vibrant; the effect of Hart's stage and the flames does not go unnoticed or appreciated.
All in all, not a lot is generally expected from comedy or concert films aside from clarity, and this disc certainly delivers that. What's surprising is that it seems to go beyond a simple clear image to offer a complete, robust package.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track delivers everything that you would expect from a live performance quite well. There's not a lot in the way of additional elements added to the film – even in the early parts of the introduction – so most of the sound comes from the front and center channel speakers. There is some nice directionality here, though, as the audio does a great job of tracking Hart on stage, and following the camera movements and edits as it moves around and occasionally focuses on the audience.
Even with this rapid-fire delivery and intense changes in the volume of his voice, the mix manages to make every single line audible and very clear. This is probably the least you can ask from an audio mix of a live performance, but it should be recognized that this goes the extra mile in some places to generate a nice immersive feel of being amongst the live audience as their laughter frequently is presented through the rear channels to very nice effect.
All in all, this is a good sounding disc that makes an effort to make sure the comedian is presented clearly, and then adds certain flourishes to give it a live, present feeling that takes it up a notch.
'Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain' features a good, but too short stand-up routine that is marred by making the audience sit through what amounts to a mildly funny commercial for the rest of Kevin Hart's career. Additionally, though funny, much of Hart's routine here feels somewhat familiar and the funniest bit is actually watching as he cracks up at his own material. The supplements have some interesting moments, but they could have taken a deeper look into the comedian and spent less time on his friends/entourage, who lack the energy and personality of Hart. The disc features a great image and sound and should be checked out by fans of Hart and newcomers alike. It's not a must own, but it's definitely worth a look.