Putting Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish in a movie together feels likes a natural fit, as does pairing them with Girls Trip director Malcolm D. Lee. As two strong and vibrant talents in the world of comedy, their individual brands of comedy feel like the would be a formula for a box office smash, as well as a boatload of laughs. Unfortunately, no matter how good your formula is, there's always the chance that something will be missing in the execution, sinking the whole enterprise from the word go. That's exactly what happens with Night School, as the laughter in this intended comedy is largely playing hooky.
Teddy Walker (Hart) dropped out of high school in 2001 and never looked back. Now, 17 years later, his past is about to catch up with him, as circumstances require him to secure his GED or lose everything he holds dear in his life. With an eccentric pack of fellow students (Rob Riggle, Mary Jane Rajskub, Romany Malco) and a teacher who's as tough as she is dedicated (Haddish), he might just make the grade. That is, if he can stop scheming long enough to study.
The concept of comedy through humiliation is not new, nor is it an inherently negative medium when used to get laughs. Certain protagonists are just built to take abuse, and usually there's something built into those characters that balances out their consistent role as the butt of the joke. Night School's Teddy definitely embodies that first criteria, as his lot in life is to be insulted, and in some cases physically assaulted, for the cause of comedy. The issue is that without any sort of balancing qualities that endear the audience to Teddy's character, this film ends up amounting to a bunch of jokes with a bare skeleton of a story to hang on. Said skeleton is so brittle, a gentle breeze would collapse it once and for all.
In addition, Night Schoo_l relies on repetition and stereotypical humor. I'd be lying if I were to say that I laughed at any of the jokes that this project had to offer. If you took _Billy Madison, dumped all of the friends, and made him aggressively loud and spastic, you've basically got the equation to what Night School ends up being. For a movie with two talented headliners, it's hard to accept that this film doesn't work, but also easy to see why: The whole film's concept hinges on relentlessly mocking the fact that its lead character has multiple learning and processing disorders.
None of the supporting cast help matters, as an equally talented cast of co-stars are all given simple stereotypes that barely change throughout Night School's plot. There's not even enough friendship components binding these characters or making them likable. Night School only exists for one reason, as a vehicle for Tiffany Haddish and Kevin Hart to mug at the camera, trade in their usual comedic tropes, and bring this barely-there story from start to finish.
Night School is, above all else, intended as fan service for either comedian's base of constant supporters, and it succeeds admirably in not demanding anything more or less. It is a substandard marathon race of loud and unfunny gags from its leads that continue for a span of almost two hours. If you're a fan of either Kevin Hart or Tiffany Haddish's default brand of humor, you may still find enough to like in Night School to justify seeing the film; however, if you are aiming for a standard of comedy that is higher than lazy or paint-by-numbers, you should probably get a doctor's note and skip this class completely.
CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.
By Mike Reyes
By Mike Reyes
By Dirk Libbey