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'About Last Night' review: Get with the program

** (out of four)

In the diverting, minimally insightful remake of “About Last Night,” Dan (Michael Ealy of “Almost Human”) and Debbie (Joy Bryant of “Parenthood”) watch and express their love for the 1986 film—which starred Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, and was set in Chicago and adapted from David Mamet’s play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.” It’s a funny moment; movie characters rarely exist in a world that allows them to see real media. The scene also reinforces how much more romantically advanced these two should be.

When the original came out, Lowe was 22 and Moore was 23. They looked young and inexperienced enough to struggle with the transition from a blissful hook-up to the everyday realities of cohabitation. Though both look plenty youthful, Ealy is 40 and Bryant, 37. The vague communication problems their characters experience while testing their compatibility don’t make sense and don’t feel of the moment. There were a lot of smart ways the new “ALN” could have updated its predecessor, but writer Leslye Headland (the underrated “Bachelorette”) chooses to let generalities stand for contemporary issues, and jokes replace truth.

Fortunately, there’s Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall of the “Best Man” and “Scary Movie” movies), Dan and Debbie’s respective BFFs. Unlike the first movie, in which Jim Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins bark at each other practically the entire time, Bernie and Joan start as sexual dynamite and go through peaks and valleys of connection and disgust. They may be oil and water, but they have intangible chemistry. Hart and Hall (at last, deservedly granted a major part) make a couple that’s both funny and complicated. By comparison, the relationship between Dan and Debbie just drags. They call themselves the boring alternative to their crazy friends, and they’re right. Ealy also comes off as bland instead of vulnerable and unwilling to let his heart back into the wild.

A discussion of dating in 2014 shouldn’t resort to jokes about Joan’s manly roommate or go easy on Dan’s professional life. Work and love can be tough. Give people high stakes and see if they can step up. Despite intermittent charm, “About Last Night” is a pretty, mildly sympathetic ear instead of a valuable mouthpiece. 

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