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updated: 2/13/2014 6:18 AM

'About Last Night...' doesn't conjure the heat it needs

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  • Danny (Michael Ealy) finds love with Debbie after a one-night-stand in "About Last Night."

      Danny (Michael Ealy) finds love with Debbie after a one-night-stand in "About Last Night."

  • Danny (Michael Ealy) finds love with Debbie after a one-night-stand in "About Last Night."

      Danny (Michael Ealy) finds love with Debbie after a one-night-stand in "About Last Night."

 
By Jessica Herndon, Associated Press

There can never be too many tales about a one-night stand turned long-term love affair.

Perhaps the allure comes from the hope that anyone can fall hard, despite the lack of a courtship. The latest take on this scenario, a reimagined version of the 1986 hit "About Last Night...," offers a modern spin on the challenges of connecting with strange bedfellows; a reboot that is as satisfying as breakfast in bed the morning after an unexpected rendezvous.

Based on David Mamet's 1974 play, "Sexual Perversity in Chicago," the 1980s film adaptation, which starred Demi Moore and Rob Lowe, centered on 20-something yuppies in Chicago. The Leslye Headland ("Bachelorette") penned "About Last Night" focuses on African-American singles in their 30s navigating the dating world in contemporary downtown Los Angeles.

Most of the original plot points remain the same: Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant) play a pair attempting to avoid dating because they have been hurt in the past. But after they meet at a bar -- and sleep together that night -- they begin a relationship, shack up, break up and reunite. Kevin Hart and Regina Hall portray a dysfunctional couple: Bernie, Danny's crude best bud, and Joan, Debbie's pessimistic roommate. Bernie and Joan also jump into bed the first night they meet.

Similar to the way Vince Vaughn and Isla Fisher stole the show with their unforgettably bizarre romance in "Wedding Crashers," Hart and Hall are the best part of this film. They play the couple you know all too well: fiery, able to press one another's buttons and always caught in the makeup to breakup game.

Hall offers one of her most impressive performances. Her sharp comedic timing is on par with rising funnyman Hart's. Whether attempting a drunken quickie in a bathroom stall or trading hateful quips, their scenes together are always playful, absurd and clever.

This is partly due to screenwriter Headland's ability to make the humor swell. What made '80s love stories so great were the long daytime TV-like pauses and sweeping Casio keyboard-backed ballads. These elements created heavy melodrama, a facet that's been dropped in the new version, allowing for more comedy and a lighter feel overall. But did we really need a montage dedicated to texting selfies? Luckily the film's vulgar humor helps make up for the shortcomings.

There's an abundance of sex here, too. Bernie and Joan's kinky scenes get pretty lewd (at one point Joan wears a chicken mask). But Hart and Hall can pull them off. Ealy and Bryant, on the other hand, lack heat and their interactions feel forced.

Directed by Steve Pink and produced by Will Packer, the film avoids becoming a story only for an African-American audience. Overall, this modern take is an honest look at how couples can develop, sabotage and salvage relationships in 2014.

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