By Will Ashton | email@example.com| @thewillofash
About Last Night | Directed by Steve Pink | Rated R
As far as romantic comedies go, 1986’s About Last Night… is a fairly decent one.
Sure, it’s predictable as hell, and, tonally, it’s a bit uneven. But the script is witty and appropriately grounded, and the cast is strong enough and works well together. It also has the advantage of being one of two movies—at least that I can think of—that features a decent performance from James Belushi. The other, for the record, is The Ghost Writer.
It’s forgettable, but charming. Which, for what it sets out to do, is fine enough. So, I guess that warrants the film a remake.
In case you didn’t notice it, there is a trend going on in Hollywood now to remake every movie that came out in the 1980s. In just the past couple years, audiences saw remakes of films like Fright Night, Conan the Barbarian, Footloose, Red Dawn and The Evil Dead, just to name a few. There are also remakes of Escape From New York, Dirty Dancing, Scarface, Time Bandits, Videodrome, WarGames, Romancing the Stone, Short Circuit, Highlander, Overboard, The Monster Squad, Pet Sematary, Poltergeist, Commando, Porky’s, Police Academy and Flight of the Navigator in various forms of development. I think I missed a few.
Hell, just this weekend alone there are three coming out—this, Endless Love and Robocop. And people say originality in Hollywood is dead? Why this sudden re-interest? I don’t know, maybe it’s trending. What I find interesting, though, is I don’t think any of them have been particularly successful, financially or critically, save for Evil Dead. So why do they keep pushing them out, in an even faster and heavier rate? I dunno. Hollywood’s funny like that, sometimes.
Anyway, back to About Last Night. To its credit, this film, unlike a lot of remakes lately, tries to mix things up at least a little bit. In addition to modernizing the story, the film has gotten a primarily all-black cast to star in this re-adaption.
Both the original and the remake follow the growing relationship of Danny (played here by Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant), a couple of young, up-and-coming lovers who face the trials and tribulations that come along with their blooming bound. Along the way, their respective friends Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall) hold an interesting relationship of their own.
The film seems to be at its best when it lets Hart and Hall go on with their bits, and the film, to its credit, seems to know it. This is not to say that these bits are particularly funny, or entertaining, but they are much more lively than the segments that feature our main protagonists. This is because, for better or worse, they at least have some personality that breath life into this movie.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this remake is that our main characters, Danny and Debbie, are just kind of boring people. Do they make a cute couple? Sure. Ealy is certainly handsome, and Bryant is easy on the eyes as well. But their characters are flat. They often showcase an easy chemistry throughout, but there is nothing about them—or their relationship—that’s particularly funny or interesting enough to warrant a multi-million dollar movie about them.
I feel like I elaborated enough about my assessment of Hart and his recent spike in success with my Ride Along review, so I’ll just add this: he is better here than he is normally. He probably is the funniest character in the film—much like Belushi was in his portrayal in the original (of course, both get the benefit of having the best lines). That’s not to say that he’s hilarious, or even that funny. He’s just the funniest character here. His line about cunnilingus is probably the biggest laugh I got out of this experience, and that was a half-hearted laugh at best.
He continues my firm assessment that I have confirmed in the last couple months: Hart is best in small doses. That’s not a height joke, by the way. Though, to be sure, he makes about 20 million of those in literally everything he appears in.
While I can’t argue that Danny and Debbie were the most interesting people in the world in the original, I remember at least caring a little more about their relationship than I did in this outing. Perhaps that speaks more to the performances given by Rob Lowe and Demi Moore than anything else, or, once again, just the writing, but I was more drawn in to their relationship, at least for the first two acts, than I ever was here.
Much like her last produced screenplay, Bachelorette, which she also directed, writer Leslye Headland shows flashes of wit and edge in her work, but it often comes across as too scattershot and forced to make any real impact. She strikes me as someone who’s on the verge of making a really funny, modern film, but hasn’t quite figured out how to do it yet. Perhaps, in time, she’ll do it, but not here. The third time’s the charm, though.
Although he is responsible for helming the terrible comedy Accepted, with 2010’s Hot Tub Time Machine, director Steve Pink provided that he can produce a fast, funny comedy and that he knew how to work with an extended ensemble effectively. His work on the show Children’s Hospital demonstrates the same talent. Which is why I held out hope that this remake would be a little more than just another generic, raunchy romantic comedy.
I figured Pink would be able to make this cast and this script work. But, by sticking to the genre’s conventions and clichés, he traps himself into making just another routine romantic comedy/remake that hopes to grab a quick buck during the Hallmark holiday. But at least where the original was forgettable, it was still funny and entertaining. I can’t say the same for its remake.
Pink is attached to another ‘80s remake of The Toxic Avenger for sometime in the near future. I hope that, by the time he gets around to making that, he is able to make a better re-adaptation. Especially considering that the tale of Toxie is a much more memorable and enjoyable film to begin with.