The question to be asked of "About Last Night," the so-called reimagining of the 1986 screen adaptation of David Mamet's caustic one-act dating comedy "Sexual Perversity in Chicago," is not: "Is it better than the first film?" because it's a draw, at best. Rather, the question is: "Is there any pressing need for it?"
There isn't. Nonetheless, the apparently marketable title is back — minus its original closing ellipsis — and the action has been moved from Chi-Town to Los Angeles with four appealing, talented African American actors in the lead roles originally played by Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Jim Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins.
Unfortunately, this latest version, written by Leslye Headland ("Bachelorette") and directed by Steve Pink ("Hot Tub Time Machine"), has little new to offer about romantic entanglements that audiences haven't seen countless times in movies and, especially, on TV sitcoms since 1986, not to mention before that.
As in its predecessors, the film follows the rise and fall of two very different, interconnected couples: carnally charged bickerers Bernie and Joan (amusingly played to the hilt by Kevin Hart and Regina Hall) and the more circumspect — and duller — Danny and Debbie (Michael Ealy, Joy Bryant).
Typical "Venus"-and-"Mars"-type battles erupt over such things as sex, commitment, cohabitation, the reappearance of ex-lovers and, of course, that potential third-rail admission: "I love you." It's clear from the get-go how things will likely end up. (C'mon, it's being released on Valentine's Day.)
The cast does what it can with — and clearly self-improves upon — the essentially thin, at times choppy material. Raunchy motormouth Hart and the irrepressible Hall (both of whom appeared in "Think Like a Man," the "Death at a Funeral" redo and the third and fourth installments of the "Scary Movie" franchise) provide some big laughs, particularly during outrageous bedroom bits.
Still, if Sony Pictures wanted to mine its library for a sexy vehicle for a quartet of attractive new stars, there had to be a richer option ("Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice," anyone?).
Perhaps most notable about the picture is its locale. The film was shot almost entirely in downtown L.A., reportedly within a 10-block radius of 6th and Main streets and proves a veritable love letter to the city's revitalized central business district. Such spots as Broadway Bar, Casey's Irish Pub (which factors into a subplot), the Santa Fe Lofts, the Pacific Electric Building, the Music Center, Grand Park and others all look vibrant and inviting. At least something feels fresh here.
"About Last Night"
MPAA rating: R for sexual content, language and brief drug use.
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Playing: In general release.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun