So let’s face it: Kevin Hart is having an exceptional year. He’s transitioned from standup comedian to America’s favorite funny man to beloved comedian to that guy who’s in EVERY movie coming out in 2014. Like, every movie. (No, seriously. He stunt-doubled in Maleficent as the crow the first time we meet him. Go watch it again.) Whether or not the films he was in were successful (Think Like a Man) or not (Soul Plane), the rising stardom and success of Kevin Hart is undeniably fantastic. His latest standup Let Me Explain created the second hardest laughter I’ve experienced within the last year. And his presence in recent movies like Ride Along and such, he escalated the movie’s humor gigantically with his joke, strong writing, and a personality larger than his…well, height.
You get the point. Kevin Hart is awesome. And EVERYWHERE.
SO everywhere, in fact…that I wonder how other crappy movies would have been saved if they would have gave Kevin Hart a call! Think about it. If your favorite flimsy film had harrowed some Hart humor, it’s suckiness shant have survived. Therefore, in lieu of the release of Think Like a Man Too, I’d like to take a look at lackluster movies and explore how K-Hart would have made them better!
- Love Don’t Cost a Thing
Of the films I’ve reviewed this year, this one is my LEAST favorite. The worst quote is the athlete bully yelling at Nick Cannon’s friends during the game to leave their seats (apparently “for cool kids only”). He says “LOSERS TO THE LEFT!” and it is at this moment, when no one stops him, that there are NO adults in the movie making these loser children be accountable for their actions. Insert Kevin Hart as the basketball coach, who would have gone up to the bully to put him in check.
HART: Hey! Boy, get back on the court! What you think this is?!
BULLY (to ‘geek’): Get off our seats! LOSERS TO THE LEFT!
HART: (to bully) No – Losers back on the court! What are you doing, boy!? Get back to the game! I got money on this, young playa!
- Fat Albert
I’d say he could have been the replacement Omarion. You know, instead of having Omarion “trying to be the antagonist”, we could have just had Kevin Hart as another schoolmate or something, a buddy or Kyla Pratt who told some jokes along the way. Even if it was a few throwaway fat jokes, him doing it would’ve made us all forget about Russell’s stupid junkyard backplot easier.
- Fighting Temptations
How great would it have been if K-Hart was in the choir, sang TERRIBLY, but they had to keep him because it turned out he was Lilly’s (Beyonce) cousin and she would only stay if Darrin (Cuba Gooding Jr.) kept him? SO many great moments would have come from this. Because as we all know, in every choir, there’s always that ONE guy.
- Batman & Robin
We all know this movie sucks. Maybe Kevin Hart could have been Mr. Freeze’s sidekick who put him in check for all those bad ice puns.
- Shark Tale
Kevin Hart as the annoying shrimp. Self-Explanatory? Yes. Stupid? Yes. Hilarious still? Heck yes.
“Say hello to my little friend, MITCHES!”
- Training Day
Just because of the explanation of his SNL audition doing how he thought this movie should have gone. I mean, come on!
- Space Jam
How great would it have been if instead of Bill Murray showing up at the end, Kevin Hart comes in, tries to steal scoring the winning basket, has this huge slow-mo where he’s in the air, and he misses? Then he’s just standing there blankly like “uh…wait wait wait, lemme get another shot, I was just getting warmed up!”
- Bebe’s Kids
Hart would’ve have put up with that mess. He’s a better father than that.
- Grown Ups 2
When not even Chris Rock can save your movie (bad writing withstanding), your movie has a problem. Perhaps trading David Spade for Kevin Hart and letting him & Rock spar off would have brought in more laughs and definitely a wider audience.
- THE WIZ
Yes, I’m still pulling for the fact that Kevin Hart needs to play the Lion. Do I even need to explain?
What other films do you think need a heaping helping of Hart? Drop some comments and let me know! Here’s to more Hart-enduced laughter this year and for more to come.
P.S. This is my FAVORITE Kevin Hart standup joke: (from Let Me Explain)
Fighting Temptations (2003)
Darrin (Gooding) and his mother (Faith Evans) were kicked out of the church when he was young because mom was singing secular music in the church. Darrin grows up to be a slick-talking city guy and gets cut from his job in NY as a junior level executive for an alcohol ad agency after having lied his way close to the top. He then learns that his only living relative, Aunt Sally, from small town Montecarlo, GA has passed away and has willed him the church choir. The choir regularly competes in the Gospel Explosion competition, and Darrin continues the lies in order to win the prize money to solve his financial issues – he says he’s a music producer, and even bribes better singers to join the choir with half of the prize money. He even convinces the town hottie, Lily (Beyonce) to join, despite her being looked down for the same reasons as Darrin’s mother. After gaining a group of very…um, “diverse” singers, the choir finally starts to get pretty good. But will Darrin’s incessant lies finally catch up with him? Will the pastor’s selfish but sneaky sister figure him out? Will Mike Epps ever get his 50/50? Come on kids, let’s find out!
- Singers – We get Beyonce, Angie Stone, Shirley Ceasar, The O’Jays,Faith Evans, Montell Jordan…TONS of great singing talent/legends in the movie. As a group and for the solos we get (and this film is littered with solo performances and choir songs), everything sounds musically pretty legit. Some songs are more memorable than others, of course, and we even get a little infusion of more contemporary music. So yes, the soundtrack pretty good (especially how nice the song at the Gospel Explosion is)…the performances are too showy though.
- Choir Audition Montage – Not really the best of these kinds of scenes, but it was entertaining. Steve Harvey announcing over the radio “atheists can now audition” was perfect.
- Steve Harvey – Harvey works for the radio station in town, keeping the town up to date on everything “happening” – whether it’s the grueling hot temperature or the fact that Darrin is on the way to the church, and this now news. But all his jokes/one-liners about what’s going on genuinely felt like Steve Harvey saw them filming this movie and just wandered around cracking on them. “The 5 Blind Boys of Alabama are next…it used to be 6 but one of them got healed and he’s their driver now…and they need him, because they used to walk the wrong way to gigs.”
“We’re down here baptizing 3 Lost souls [who] are looking for Jesus…although personally, I don’t think this is where He fell in.”
- Aunt Sally – We see very little of Darrin’s Aunt Sally, but she is the only one to stand up to Pauline and represent what God actually loving these people. Later Darrin reads an old letter from her that pretty much sums up the morale: “why can’t you just accept yourself for who you are? I do!” I wish it was possible to have more of her in the movie (maybe via flashbacks) because she was the closest thing to embodiment of the heart of the movie.
- Montell Jordan – He plays one of 3 inmates who join the choir because the warden says “I have inmates who can sing better than your choir!” He talks/sings in falsetto the entire time, and is pretty dang funny. You know your performance is golden when you can somehow say “I ain’t doin’ it!” in falsetto, with a neck tattoo of a spider, while still sounding intimidating.
“What group did you sing with?”
“Doesn’t matter. They’re DEAD now.”
WHAT DOESN’T WORK
- Beyonce – Okay, here’s the deal: this came out in 2003. We’ve seen Beyonce perform much stronger as a singer, actor and overall performer in the last 11 years. However, for what we had come to know of her by the time this came out (post-Destiny’s Child, starting the solo career & getting into movies), this wasn’t really her best work for what we’d come to expect of her. I mean yeah, she is a great singer, and she gets to share the stage with some great talent in this movie. But her performance in this movie (save some moments in her songs) is pretty underwhelming. I’m not saying Beyonce is NOT a good performer here. I’m saying she doesn’t seem up to her usual Beyonce levels of greatness. And the writing leaves her to be darn bland/cardboard as a character; though I won’t act like some of her deliveries could have been better on her own.
- Hollywood’s Stereotypical Church – I watched this with my brother, who pointed out “it feels like Hollywood is saying this is what church is like. But it isn’t.” I definitely think there’s some merit to this idea. Joyful Noise had some of this as well (more so in situations/morals than services) , and we’ve seen it in movies throughout the years – over-exaggerated, hyper-enthusiastic, dramatic “praise de lawd, glory hallelujah” jumping up and down churches. I grew up in churches that one might argue was similar to this (upbeat music, loud, mostly black people excitedly/passionately praising God) but it was very earnest and meaningful in doing so. It was not the big “production” the media portrays it to be. This is purely for entertainment value and is not really representative of what churches like this are…well, like. And it’s frankly kind of insulting when you really think about it. It also leads into the next problem…
- Singing in Clubs = Dismissal from Church – The “antagonist” nagging sister of the pastor, Pauline, calls Darrin’s mom out at the beginning of the movie for singing in the church choir Sunday but singing in the club Saturday. She is then faced with the ultimatum of choosing, and choosing to leave. First of all, it’s in front of everybody over a matter that should just concern the choir. That’s not an issue everyone should be privy to. Second, I realize this is supposed to be a mean-spirited moment of ‘we don’t accept this non-Christian lifestyle’, but it’s too mean-spirited. They, as a church, condemn one “wrong” thing with poor Faith Evan’s character and essentially kick her out of the church, which goes against everything the church should stand for. And I can say ‘as a church’ because even though it’s spearheaded by the pastor’s sister, he eventually backs down and states the ultimatum, and despite the efforts of Aunt Sally, the rest of the bystanders just stand by and let this happen. Also, this carried into Lily’s backstory as far as why she feels the church doesn’t accept her, and it doesn’t seem even remotely ‘bad enough’ for why someone would not be accepted in this church. Why it’s not vs. what would be, is a whole ‘nother discussion – but for the movie’s purposes, this just feels really contrived and not that authentic. I’m positive that there are churches that make others feel publicly unwelcome because of their personal shortcomings, but…not like this. Not this dramatic.
“You can’t change THAT from the church bylaws! It’ll change everything!”
- Pastor’s Lack of Backbone – This is his only character trait. I realize it’s supposed to be for laughs, but it gets old very quickly. The more he gives into his sister’s pouting and judgemental-based statements, the more she is really the one running (therefore RUINING) the church. This only emphasizes a big problem with the movie – there’s no reverence for the church. The closest character we get who is both strong and representing what the church actually stands for is Aunt Sally, but of course she dies so soon and we see so little of her. The pastor is weak, and many of the characters are pursuing their own selfish motivations. Therefore, no one is really standing for much when it all comes down to it. “When you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.”
- Cuba Gooding Jr.’s Directing – Obviously, Darrin isn’t supposed to know what he’s doing as a choir director and fakes it throughout the movie. And I’m sure in real life, Gooding was likely never a gospel choir director. But I really wonder if they told him to just jump around for the whole movie, or if this is really his own interpretation of how to do this. If you ever watch a gospel choir director, yes, IT IS NO JOKE. It’s a very physical activity for which you better have eaten your wheaties and finished jogging a few miles first just to stay in shape! However, there are actual musical cues involved at work, and Gooding does none of them. Yeah, it’s pretty entertaining though. I’ll leave it at that – not good, not bad, just silly.
I said a lot about this movie, which is interesting because it’s not like it’s the most memorable film! It was a fun movie to watch as a kid when it came out, but it really isn’t much memorable beyond its’ soundtrack and a few jokes. Montell Jordan & Steve Harvey get in some good laughs (a couple from Mike Epps as well), Cuba Gooding Jr. is technically perfect for the role, and this movie’s heart was in the right place. But it does suffer from convoluting this with the Hollywood version of what the church is like in a mean-spirited way. The “antagonist” was the pastor’s nagging sister Pauline, and the movie didn’t really need a person to do what she does – the real antagonist could have just been the negative emotions created with Darrin’s lies and everyone’s selfishness blocking any good intentions. There wasn’t a good enough balance to make the movie really mean something. But everyone had fun singing and carrying on, and somewhere Mike Epps is bragging about how he was in a choir movie in which he probably never actually sang a note. So, there’s that.
It was a close one for me – pretty down-the-middle movie when it’s all said & done…but what tipped it just over the edge was the lousy/lazy interpretation of the church and its’ effect on the characters & the plot.
Let me know what you think!
I love this show! So much.
Three close friends in their self-run singing group “The Dreamettes” and their songwriter, C.C., meet up with a man named Curtis, who wants to produce them and start their singing career. He starts by hooking them up as backup singers for R&B legend James ‘Thunder’ Early. The trials and successes of this eventually spirals into starting their own act, but with some new rules that leave some members of the group happier than others. As the times change and business grows, their relationships with each other change as well. When it’s all said and done, the strength and love of these girls is what brought them together…and eventually brings them back together.
The Music – This soundtrack, the singers, the bands – I don’t even know where to start. The songs are not only well-written and crafted to musical perfection for the R&B and pop styles, but the performances of them just sell so darn good! A good song should speak to you in a relatable way, express something you can respect and perhaps even relate to further, be musically coherent, be a strong original on its’ own, be memorable, and be performed by someone who can bring all the composer’s thought to mind but still put their own spin on it. Every single song in this brings that and then some. No way you’ll forget about Jennifer Hudson’s And I’m Telling You or Eddie Murphy’s Cadillac Car. And that’s just to start. The bands are just fantastic too – not just musicians, but they have great showmanship on stage with the vocalists. It just makes you get into it that much more.
The Story – The focus of this play is a retelling of how many African-American artists & groups formed and what they had to go through. Those familiar with artists such as Diana Ross & the Supremes, James Brown, the Jackson 5, and even producer Berry Gordy will easily identify similar characters/artists in this story. Using their experiences as the vehicle for exposure of how the times really were for black R&B artists trying to make it in the world during the 60s-70s-80s gives audiences a pretty clear picture of their journeys, successes and struggles. Many artists who made it big really did fall apart from their loved ones; scandals did happen; and they did endure racial injustices when they weren’t protected. The story is told in such a smart way that makes us care about the characters the entire time, and the movie on its’ own takes a few liberties that only heighten this experience.
The Look – This movie just looks so good! The costumes, the hair, the lighting, the city landscapes, the performance venues (a couple of which I wish I could sing on some time!) – it’s all just so great. You can even feel the timeline progression as the movie goes on just in the look. I’m really glad the creators of this movie went to great lengths to make this show look and sound as grand as it is in movie form – right down to the ending credits presentation.
The Chemistry – All the characters, especially the main 3 Dreamgirls, have a wonderful chemistry on set to match the story. Even when things are going rough, you can tell that the actors had a pretty good bond and probably had a good time making this movie together. You can hear that from just listening to the girls sing backup together behind Eddie Murphy, and so on.
Changes from the Stage Play – There’s a few, but my favorite is Jimmy’s story arc better in the movie, because he’s given even more room to be shown as a character with more dimensions than we would have given him and his ego credit for. After Curtis splits him up from the Dreamettes, we don’t see him for a while. He’s not in the Family scene. We also have to watch his drug problems, which while sad, is good for the purposes of showing us just how downtrodden he is when things aren’t going well. Like Effie, he likely only knows how to sing and perform (and woo women). When this is disrupted and shot down by Curtis’ blows, he’s so down that he feels he has nothing else to turn to – especially when both his wife and Lorelle split.
Jamie Foxx – This movie is yet another good example of Jamie Foxx’s many talents. He’s another strong example of a strong actor who’s also a fine musician with an understanding of how to actually make good music in the given genre. With that, you can believe more than just the character when he’s talking about what he wants to do with Jimmy & the girls as he searches for that new sound to sell. He also is just solid as the snake you’re not sure whether you can trust, but if you think about it (aside from his intimate relationships w/Effie & Deena), his ploys to get a new sound are valid. Sure people keep disagreeing with him and getting upset, but his whole thing is trying to change the music as the world changes. This is something musicians have had to consider and follow as long as music has been in existence, although some are hesitant to change right away. Feelings are hurt and it’s pretty rough, yes, and sometimes we don’t go about it the right way when it involves other people…but when you think about it, who ever said change would be easy? There’s a lesson about life in there somewhere. (Favorite Curtis song: When I First Saw You)
“The only one who can protect you is me.”
Eddie Murphy – Like Foxx, this movie also demonstrates Murphy’s talents, but I’d say even more so – this may be one of the best things he’s ever been in, if not THE best. That’s a strong statement, but in all honesty, Murphy is truly the best person to play Jimmy Early. Everyone knows he’s a great, funny actor, but he’s such a strong presence as this character. He takes great control in every scene he’s in, no matter how demonstrative he needs to be at the moment. He also kills it musically every time – his vocal chops match the style perfectly, and you can tell he puts his all of heart and soul into every note of every song, never afraid to try anything. With this kind of role, that’s how you have to play it, and Eddie Murphy is one of the rare personalities who can pull it off just right in his own way. (Favorite Jimmy song: Jimmy’s Rap)
“Jimmy wanna rib, Jimmy wanna steak,
Jimmy want some of your chocolate cake!”
Beyonce – Beyonce, it goes without saying, has been on top of the world for some time now. She’s a killer pop singer/musician, and has had a few successes in movies. As far as movies though, this is easily her best and most memorable one. She’s definitely playing the role quite naturally in the 3rd quarter of the show as America’s sweetheart: “Hello America! I love you; Curtis, darling, this is for you.” I think she did the best work at the beginning as the shy, excitable young girl and especially towards the end when her eyes are really opened to put it all in perspective. (Favorite Deena song: Listen)
“I’m all alone at a crossroads – I’m not at home in my own home!”
Jennifer Hudson – After her run on American Idol, this was Hudson’s first real big break. And good lawd, does she hold her own here! Playing Effie White is a pretty demanding role, and Hudson brings it all. I have no clue on how much of an actress she was before this movie, but she convinces me on her character every time she’s on screen. She, of course, also absolutely kills every song she has, and does her best to match the more experienced talent she’s on screen with (Beyonce, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, etc.). There’s just no way to not love her in this movie. (Favorite Effie song: And I’m Telling You. Of course.)
“I’ll change my life…and nothing’s gonna stop…me…now!”
Keith Robinson – After seeing him in Fat Albert (hmm maybe I shouldn’t have started with that), it is fantastic to see what he brings to the table as C.C. White. He stands for what he believes in, especially his music and the girls, but all that starts getting confused and jeopardized the closer he gets to Curtis’ business and the more success rises. Finally he’s had enough and does all he can to make things right. Robinson did a great, great job acting in this role, and made C.C. that much more relatable of a character. (Favorite C.C. song: Family)
That sound takes all the feeling outta my music!
Anika Noni Rose – Another great talent. She brings the perfect amount of innocence during the whole thing, while still showing her aggression in the tough times with Jimmy – and unlike in the play, it doesn’t get too much time to be in the way of all the other subplots. She does a stellar job, undeniably. In other news: She has the best name ever. (Favorite Lorelle song: Patience)
“Well…Mr. Early…you could teach us the song.”
Cameos – It was cool to see a couple actors who were involved with the original Dreamgirls Broadway production, namely Hinton Battle and Loretta Devine. Jaleel White was at the beginning, and we even got Michael-Leon Wooley (well-known voice of the Audrey II plant in the 2006 revival of Little Shop of Horrors) to play Tiny Joe Dixon. They even got Dawn Lewis to play Jimmy Early’s wife and give him the same look she gave Sinbad on The Cosby Show spinoff A Different World. And hey, there’s John Krasinski! How cool.
Balance – Great balance of drama, some comedy, some romance of course, and plenty of good music. I don’t miss the songs that didn’t make it from the Broadway show (such as Lorelle’s rant at Jimmy towards the end). The focuses are where they are supposed to be – using everything to tell the story. There’s never a pointless moment. It makes you sad when you’re supposed to be sad. It makes you laugh at all the right moments. It lets you have fun too! And it all adds to the overall experience, and you’ll remember it for a good while – this movie holds up as long as you want it to, and then some.
WHAT COULD BE BETTER (subjectively)
Personally, I do miss Marty singing in the stage play. But I don’t think Danny Glover enjoys singing. If he did, Color Purple would have been a little different in his scenes with Whoopi Goldberg. I would have loved to have heard him sing a creepy song about his weird bromance crush with Jimmy Early, though.
This is a small thing, but whenever the girls are singing backup, one of two things happen – either 3 of them are singing behind Jimmy and it sounds like more of a small choir adding to each of the 3 voice parts (therefore fuller than just the 3 of them on each part), OR Deena is singing lead with 2 in the background, but you clearly hear 3 girls singing backup. It takes me out of it a little, despite how good it sounds.
I LOVE THIS MOVIE. Period. I’d definitely say I enjoy it better the the original, which was still pretty well done. This is one of the rare examples of a production that was turned into a movie well. I can’t even add anything to what I added above- I just love it. It does what it set out to do, and will likely hold up forever. I know/love all of the songs, and I’m sure many of you do, too.
Let me know what you think, what your favorite song is, favorite actor in this movie…all that good stuff!