Night School could have been cut by a good 20 minutes and the film generally skips over addressing how to suitably tackle learning disabilities. Haddish, though, matches Hart’s up-tempo comic energy, which also has some genuinely funny supporting turns from Romany Malic, Rob Riggle and Al Madrigal. Worth a rental.
Kevin Hart is one of the few stand-up comics left that can get viewers to leave the comfort of their homes and abandon the digital platform to sit in a theatre with strangers while eating overpriced popcorn. In other words, he puts the butts in the seats. Hart has the type of up-tempo comic energy you need to be matched or counteracted in an action/buddy comedy with another co-star. For the first time, I think he has found someone to match that comic energy in Girls Trip‘s Tiffany Haddish.
Night School begins with Kevin Hart’s Teddy struggling in high school and too afraid to face failure, so he drops out of school after leaving in the middle of his SAT’s. Years later he is motivated to get his GED when he loses his long-time sales job and wants to marry his long-time girlfriend Ke (Megalyn Echikunwoke). He wants to try to work out a way to get his diploma by talking his way around putting the work in to earn it. He soon finds out his long-time nemesis Stewart (Taran Killam, in full Lean on Me “Crazy Joe” mode, even carrying around a trusty baseball bat) is the school’s principal. He then meets Haddish’s Carrie, a teacher who teaches during the day and night classes at the school.
Some of the film’s funniest scenes come via the classroom. Whether it’s Romany Malic’s Jaylen ranting about complete nonsense and palm brushing his head for hair that isn’t there, or Al Mandril’s Luis coming to America to become the middle-aged Justin Bieber, the leads never have to carry the movie on their own 100% of the time.
While Night School does have a sweet message about how it is never too late to get an education or to obtain a degree, it often takes the easy way out when Teddy clearly has some sort of learning disability (we later find out he has dyslexia and dyscalculia) when the script offers no plan on how to tackle these disorders. It’s a comedy, so when Carrie starts to quiz Teddy in a UFC-style ring and tosses him around when he gets it wrong, you let it slide. Later, when Teddy is officially told he has a disability, Carrie’s only tool or plan to help Teddy is to yell, “Concentrate!” I’m not sure if this reflects the sorry state of education or the script itself. I’m hoping it’s the latter.
The film can be long at times and could have been cut easily by a good 20 minutes. The scenes that make use of special effects seem like filler, with the use of talking heads being out of place. The use of a racial slur used consistently by Romany Malic’s Jaylen offers no probative value other than to offend, even if said dismissively.
Night School, though, is ultimately carried through by Hart and Haddish’s high-voltage comedy act. They drive and match each other, shot for shot. Hart also consistently offers a level of grounded poignancy that never seems out of place in his comic roles. That makes a difference when rooting for one of his characters and his best comedies always make him the underdog. Along with some well-placed comic supporting performances, Night School is worth a look on rental or digital platforms (over theatre prices) if you are looking for some consistent laughs. The issue is the laughs aren’t guilt free.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.