LAUGH AT MY PAIN (Leslie Small). 88 minutes. Opens Friday (November 18). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
The problem with paying big-screen prices for a stand-up special is that you really have to like the comic to feel you're getting your money's worth. I saw Kevin Hart's Laugh At My Pain for free, and I feel like I barely broke even.
This isn't entirely Hart's fault. His stand-up is competent, and he clearly knows how to work a crowd, telling elaborate stories around a punchline that occurs several times within the routine, building laughs with each repetition. (One of them involves his debit card, another his crackhead father's inappropriate enthusiasm at grim social functions.)
The specific problem with Laugh At My Pain is that Hart's stand-up set runs only about 50 minutes; it's been padded to feature length with an opening trip to Hart's old neighbourhood in Philadelphia (cheesesteaks for everyone!) and a really, really long skit in which he and his buddies try to hold up a bank Reservoir Dogs-style.
The heist skit is directed by Tim Story, who made the Fantastic Four movies and knows how to set up a shot but isn't so great with comedy; all the laughs in the sequence come from Taraji P. Henson, who cameos as a pragmatic bank teller. Not really something you want to pay $13 for.