One of the best surprises of the 1980s was Edward Zwick's "About Last Night . . . ," starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore as promiscuous singles who attempt monogamy. The two leads dutifully peeled off their clothes and canoodled to the baby-making sounds of Jermaine Jackson, yet they also traded sharp verbal gunfire courtesy of David Mamet, whose 1974 play, "Sexual Perversity in Chicago," was the film's source. The result was a slick, pleasant rom-com that unexpectedly nailed some painful truths about falling in love.
The remake is similar, except for that last part. "About Last Night" (the new title drops the ellipsis) is a superficial update for the new millennium, with an attractive African-American cast, a shimmery Los Angeles backdrop and conspicuously expensive decor. (The frenzied lovers in 1986 collided on a beanbag chair; today they use a sleek dining room table.) The soundtrack features current smoothies John Legend and Bruno Mars. What's missing are the jolts of realism and flashes of insight that made the original so stealthily effective.
The story has been slightly but crucially altered. Our gorgeous lovebirds are still Danny and Debbie (Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant, both likable and nice to look at), who succumb to love in stages, Kubler-Ross-style: casual sex, regular sex, semi-cohabitation ("A whole drawer?" says Debbie in mock gratitude) and, finally, full-on domesticity. In the original film, their best friends -- James Belushi as the womanizing Bernie and Elizabeth Perkins as the spinsterish Joan -- sabotaged the relationship out of jealousy and selfishness. Bernie and Joan were cautionary tales, eternal singles who had refused love's call.
This time, Bernie and Joan are paired up. Played by hyperactive comedian Kevin Hart and a trash-talking Regina Hall, they're the movie's louder, raunchier, ever-bickering couple. They provide lowbrow comic relief (including a sex scene involving a chicken mask) in this otherwise stuffily upmarket rom-com, but they also rob "About Last Night" of the shading and contrast it once had.
Perfunctorily directed by Steve Pink ("Hot Tub Time Machine") and buffed to a high gloss by Michael Barrett's cinematography, "About Last Night" is different from the original in one more respect: It isn't surprising at all.
PLOT Two very different couples navigate the highs and lows of love.
RATING R (language, sexuality, adult themes)
CAST Michael Ealy, Joy Bryant, Kevin Hart
BOTTOM LINE A raunchier but snoozier remake of the 1986 semi-classic. The jolts of realism are gone, but the steamy sex and baby-making soundtrack remain.