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‘About Last Night,’ Version 2, sort of ho-hum entertainment

By Gary Clift

The new movie “About Last Night” is a re-make of a sanitized version of a David Mamet play. The original movie, also called “About Last Night,” was a 1986 feature starring Rob Lowe (pre-scandal), Demi Moore (pre-surgery), James Belushi (pre-television), and, perhaps surprisingly, Elizabeth Perkins.

The new film, set in Los Angeles, is about the first year of the romance between Derek (Michael Early, who is on TV these days) and Debbie (Joy Bryant). But the ads for the film have emphasized the significance of the show’s second couple, Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall).

The picture will seem a success and a comedy to those moviegoers who have not over the near-term had enough of comedian Hart. This is his third general release movie in about three months, following “Grudge Match” and “Ride Along” (this last still showing at the local twelve-plex). Is he over-exposed?

Well, that’s one of the questions about this movie. Hall, herself an experienced screen personality, makes a good comedic companion to him. They are both quick, effusive, and convincing as bar-hopping passion-seekers. Actually, they may be too much alike. During their brief scenes of fighting in public and loving in private, they sometimes each seem to be trying to top each other at screeching. I couldn’t make out all of their rapid but slurred and swooping dialog.

Bernie (“Like Medoff”) and Joan have already met and clicked before the new film opens. They each take a friend along when they meet up at an up-scale bar. Bernie brings his work-mate Derek. Joan brings her high-earning roommate Debbie.

Bernie and Joan may end up having sex in one of the bar’s bathrooms—this happens fairly often in the movie. But Derek and Debbie also hit it off, if less spectacularly. They end up in his bed and, over a period of months (the seasons are marked by on-screen titles) they fall in love, move in together, fight, break up, and so on.

This is all pretty standard Valentine’s Day romance stuff. He takes her to a Dodgers’ game where they sit in seats he inherited from his father—seats away up there in Bob Ueker “He missed the tag” land. And he takes her to his regular bar, the first girl he’s ever taken there. These characters are always drinking. Alcohol is as common as coarse language here, which is saying something.

Derek, who may sometimes be called Danny, quits his job as a salesman for a restaurant supply company when he sides with the bar’s manager (Christopher MacDonald) in a slow-payment controversy. Then he buys into the Irish pub and oversees an expansion. But during the interim he has split up with Debbie for reasons a little vague. He sees his crazy former girlfriend (Paula Patton) once when she comes into the bar looking for him. Debbie also gets hit on, by her boss, when they are on a business trip.

Will D and D get back together? Have we had enough sad music montages to lengthen the film?

I don’t think most of the folks who buy tickets for this movie will care all that much about the romance. I suspect they are there to get comedy and maybe a little sex, and to see Hart. Hart explains Early’s problems by saying “You’re too good-looking.”

Hart’s Bernie doesn’t care for skinny girls who are like “a ten-speed bike.” But later he explains that one of Derek or Danny’s problems is that he is a minor thing in his own romance: “like the bell on the front of the bike.” Maybe the funniest, or at least the oddest moment in the movie comes when D walks in on his friend and Joan in bed and she is wearing a head-covering chicken mask.

The updating includes video-game playing, Facebook page tending, texting, and a pitch by Debbie for a phone product that sends recorded music directly to different sorts of players. Ho hum.

The romance story isn’t so awful that it ruins the comedy in this odd re-make. But it is sort of sad to think that this story began as a short David Mamet play titled “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.” Talk about de-evolution. “About Last Night” is about what happens when sex and work are largely replaced by cell phones and Twitter.

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