ByBenjamin Marlatt, writer at

Out on a date with Joan Derrickson (Regina Hall), Bernie Jackson (Kevin Hart) brings his single best friend Danny Martin along (Michael Ealy), following his breakup from girlfriend Alison (Paula Patton). There, Danny meets Joan’s best friend Debbie Sullivan (Joy Bryant), also single.

After a night out that leads to a one-night stand, Danny and Debbie start seeing each other more, and it eventually turns into a relationship that could potentially be long-term. This, in contrast to the venom-spewing, loathe each other, friends with benefits deal Bernie has with Joan.

Based on the David Mamet play Sexual Perversity in Chicago, About Last Night is also a loose remake of the 1986 film starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore. Despite that this Valentine’s Day weekend is shoving more remakes in our face than we can handle, 2014′s About Last Night is an improvement over the original film. While Jim Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins were definitely redeeming elements of the original, Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, while resembling a cute couple, worked as well together as dog turd flavored syrup on top of ice cream.

Director Steve Pink has made some flops, like any other filmmaker (writing Grosse Pointe Blank and directing Accepted, for example), but he also co-wrote the great High Fidelity and directed Hot Tub Time Machine, proving he’s capable of making an effective comedy. In About Last Night, right off the bat, Pink and writer Leslye Headland open things up with a cleverly written and edited rant that has Kevin Hart and Regina Hall finishing each other’s sentences, while each are in different spots telling their friends about what happened the night before.

Kevin Hart and Regina Hall (playing Belushi and Perkins’s characters respectively) provide the film’s comedy. I said in my review of Ride Along that Hart has the ability to be an entertaining comic presence, he just mostly wastes it on dumbed-down films. Here, Hart finally gets a role that’s able to showcase his talent. While some of the public bickering between him and Hall is a bit more over-the-top than it needs to be, they still pull off some great comic friction together.

Although Hart is the top-billed actor (pretty much in name and recognition only), the central focus of the story is really about Danny and Debbie (originally played by Lowe and Moore). It’s their relationship that really gives this film the edge over the original. Like I said, Lowe and Moore looked appealing, but that’s all. They weren’t convincing in any way as a couple, which led you to not really care if they ended up having a “happily ever after” ending. Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant share a great chemistry and really get you to care about their relationship as it goes through the typical ups and downs. Nothing feels forced between the two of them. It comes off genuine.

Plus, for playing a couple that’s meant to be young and pulling it off as well as they do, I was surprised to find out that both Ealy and Bryant are pushing 40. Whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it right.

A few of the subplots that pop up here and there do take you out of the film at times. Of course, there has to be the token coworker of Debbie’s that tries to hit on her and gives her the “your man doesn’t deserve you” speech. Also, the gorgeous Paula Patton is once again wasted in a throwaway role as Danny’s train wreck of an ex-girlfriend that has two scenes that go nowhere. However, one subplot that does work is with character actor Christopher McDonald, who shares a few good scenes with Ealy as a bar owner who’s had a longtime special relationship with Danny.

Typically, Valentine’s Day weekend for film is when we get the usual suspects of sentimental crap. About Last Night, though, is a pleasant surprise – an upgrade over the 1986 version – that has four funny and heartfelt performances from the leads, and some solid writing from Headland, which borrows very little from Mamet’s original, but still works. It’s not perfect, but it’s a decent alternative for you men if your gals aren’t keen on seeing a robotic cop shoot the hell out of people. Hey, it could be worse. You could be getting Safe Haven 2. Count your blessings. I sure did.

I give About Last Night a B (★★★).

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