Why you should care
Because Kevin Hart’s got talent and we’d like to see more of it — if he can just figure out how.
“A lot of excellent black movies, man — and some of them don’t even have Kevin Hart in them,” Chris Rock riffed during his opening monologue at the 2014 BET Awards. “Kevin Hart is in everything! My man is in every movie there is! Sometimes he’s in the trailer and not in the movie.”
Rock’s gentle ribbing of Hollywood’s current African-American “it” man was certainly funny, but it raises a serious question: Are we in the throes of Kevin Hart fatigue?
Hart’s plate of work continues to grow from a snack for a starving man to a full-blown Thanksgiving dinner.
This year has already seen the release of three feature films starring the 5’4” comedian, whose bane of existence had been starring in 2004’s cultural and cinematic travesty Soul Plane until his 2009 breakout stand-up comedy film I’m A Grown Little Man.
With five more films on the horizon for 2015/2016 — including a sequel to the surprisingly profitable cop buddy flick Ride Along ($153 million worldwide) and another season of the faux reality show Real Husbands of Hollywood — the moments when we aren’t seeing the 35-year-old will seem few and far between.
Hart’s success parallels a similar pattern from the Hollywood billionaire boys club that apparently only allows a single African-American comedian admission every half-decade or so, which includes the likes of Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy to Mike Epps and Chris Tucker. And lately, the shelf life of the black comedian of the moment is dwindling, which explains why Hart may be getting it while the getting is good. In the fast-paced world of Hollywood and with the web helping immensely to find new talent, you never know when you might not be the “it” guy any longer.
Great thespians are able to lose themselves in a role. If Kevin Hart is still portraying Kevin Hart in 2016, the end will be near.
So Hart has served himself right by snatching up just about every role in Tinseltown with the expectation that his 15 minutes (or 15 movies) will soon be up. Only they haven’t; in fact, instead of running down, his time in the spotlight seems to be expanding. Hart’s plate of work continues to grow from a snack for a starving man to a full-blown Thanksgiving dinner that’s difficult to consume in one sitting.
And while his success is impressive, there comes a point when too much of a good thing isn’t so good anymore. It’s unfortunate and inevitable that resenting another’s success is standard hipster practice, and Hart’s repeated exposure hasn’t allowed the public to actually miss him. Intentionally or not, Kevin Hart has become trendy, and trends are eventually met with volatile backlash that can turn what or who is in vogue to obsolete in no time flat.
What Hart needs is to evolve from playing “Kevin Hart” to taking roles that can redirect and redefine his career. What separates good comedians (Katt Williams) from great thespians (Jamie Foxx) is the ability to lose oneself in a role. If we’re still seeing Kevin Hart portraying Kevin Hart in 2016, the end will certainly be near.
It won’t take long for the comedic routine about being a pint-sized adult to grow stale and people will want more. The question is: Can he give it to them? We’ll be watching.