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This image released by Sony Pictures shows Kevin Hart, left, and Regina Hall in a scene from "About Last Night." (AP Photo/Sony Pictures, Matt Kennedy)
Movie review: ‘About Last Night’ remake surprisingly good
Review » Cast gives this update its spark.
First Published Feb 13 2014 03:09 pm • Last Updated Feb 14 2014 04:50 pm

In 1986, heartthrobs Demi Moore and Rob Lowe raised eyebrows and libidos in the risqué dramedy "About Last Night."

Although that loosely adapted version of "Sexual Perversity in Chicago" failed to win over the many devotees of David Mamet’s play, including the playwright himself, there was no denying that the two attractive leads set off sparks galore. They certainly looked fantastic running around in the buff a lot.

At a glance

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‘About Last Night’

Forty years after David Mamet’s incisive play charted the rocky course of two young couples talking about one-night stands, relationships, friendships and even love, “About Last Night” receives an appealing cinematic renovation from director Steve Pink.

Where » Theaters everywhere

When » Opens Friday

Rating » R for sexual content, language and brief drug use.

Running time » 1 hour, 40 minutes

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Forty years after Mamet’s incisive play charted the rocky course of two young couples talking about one-night stands, relationships, friendships and even love, "About Last Night" receives an appealing cinematic renovation. And, like "Endless Love" — another Valetine’s Day release that remakes a racy 1980s movie — changes abound.

In this "Night," the setting is Los Angeles, not Chicago. The four leads are black, not white. And there’s more naughty talk than eye-catching nudity.

The biggest news is that mercurial comic and emerging box-office champ Kevin Hart ("Ride Along") lands one of his most significant roles yet. And although his loud and horny character, Bernie, is no stretch for him to play, he is consistently hilarious and even sexy.

But let’s get to the key question here. Does this remake, which even inserts a scene from the original film and has a nudge-worthy mention of Chicago, hold its own with the Moore-Lowe original? Sort of.

What makes it worthwhile is that it is more adventurous and honest than contrived romantic failures such as "That Awkward Moment." And there’s the cast. As a squabbling and self-absorbed duo who scorch bedsheets, Hart and Regina Hall (who plays Joan) are a joy to behold. Each has natural comic timing and can lob put-downs with the ease of tennis pros.

As the more earnest and less showy couple, Danny and Debbie, the attractive Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant (the new Lowe and Moore) have an easygoing romantic chemistry. The two characters are nursing wounds from previous relationships (the exes arrive in the fine forms of Terrell Owens in a flash of a cameo and Paula Patton in an underwritten part) and unexpectedly wind up in the sack. Then their relationship shapes into something more: the commitments, the holidays and the daily grind of life, which wear down the romance. At the same time, Bernie and Joan, who is originally Debbie’s roommate, feel slighted as their own fiery relationship blows up.

It is the exchanges among these four that make "Night" light up, with the cast working in unison even when the screenplay by Leslye Headland ("Bachelorette") struggles with the conflicting tones. Director Steve Pink ("Hot Tub Time Machine") does a fine job, more so with the comedy than the romance, which could have been just a little more spicy. He does pull off a poignant scene in an elevator in which Bryant and Ealy have a heart-to-heart talk. And he manages, overall, to right the silliness of a script that sometimes goes off the rails, especially when the sexual proclivities of Bernie and Joan get explored.

But in a genre that avoids risk-taking, "About Last Night" is a breath of fresh air, a fun "date" movie that is as satisfying — at least temporarily — as a rebound boyfriend. Sometimes that’s all you need in a movie.


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