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Movie review: 'Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain' builds up to a letdown

There's a heavy dose of pumping up before Kevin Hart hits the stage in his latest concert film "Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain." A prologue at a party shows the compact, energetic comedian being misunderstood by hangers-on about his take on women and fame — introducing topics he plans to "explain" onstage at Madison Square Garden. That's followed by an extended tour video hawking Hart as an international star who can slay 'em in Vancouver, London and Oslo.

The build-up is a little baffling, if we assume that anybody buying a ticket to "Let Me Explain" doesn't need to be sold on Hart's particular comic gifts: character sketches, crazy stories steeped in embarrassment and boundless physicality.

It's too bad, then, that the hour of mike time isn't as strong as such previous dispatches as "Seriously…Funny." A long stretch of harangues about "bitches" come off as merely stale and baiting, even if director Leslie Small keeps cutting to laughing women in the audience as if to assure us they find it funny. Carps about celebritydom feel forced, rather than observant.

Where Hart shines is teasing an anxiety into something full-blown weird, like an excuse for being late that spins out of control, or — in his funniest bit — an extended fear about the smallest touch from a street person. At the end, Hart wells up as he expresses gratitude to the crowd for selling out the Garden. It's an unusually emotional moment for a hot-shot comic, even if "Let Me Explain" doesn't exactly inspire tears from laughter.

calendar@latimes.com

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'Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain'

Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

MPAA rating: R for pervasive language including sexual references

Playing: In general release

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