Kevin Hart meets his match in Night School with Tiffany Haddish, who can contain his manic energy because she has so much of it herself. Though Malcolm D Lee’s latest comedy doesn’t pit the two against each other for a potential showdown for the ages, it instead places the two heavyweight comedians in a position where they effortlessly support each other rather than threaten to upstage one another.
Teddy Walker (Hart) is a successful BBQ salesman who struggles financially – primarily because of his mathematical inabilities – and following a troubling incident at a restaurant is moved to join night school where he can get his GED and move on to something better. His education is supported by a gig at a Christian-themed fast food restaurant and his status pales in comparison to out-of-his-league fiancée Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke). The class is taught by Carrie (Haddish) and he’s joined by a motley crew of students, stereotypical of college dropouts. There’s the one who left because she got pregnant (Mary Lynn Rajskub), the one who got locked up (Romany Malco), the drug dealer (Anne Winters) etc.
Teddy, on the other hand, had significant learning disabilities, which resulted in terrible grades. There’s room here for a worthwhile depiction of dyslexia through humour but that space stays totally unoccupied, when the presented solution to help Teddy is something else entirely and altogether problematic. That is until an effective twist, one of the best moments of the movie, turns things upside down.
The central character is basically an inverse of the star’s role in Central Intelligence but this flick lacks the sweetness and thematic depth of that one. There’s no real sense of romance between Teddy and Lisa because it’s difficult to decipher why she’s attracted to him nor does she have a character of her own; whenever conflict arises, she’s not the one who gets to make a decision about the issue.
Every character around is there to serve Kevin Hart’s purpose in some way, which is a waste because he’s surprisingly the least entertaining in a cast that includes other funny folks such as Rob Riggle and a scene-stealing Taran Killam as the principal of the school. Maybe Night School would have benefited from Tiffany Haddish in the lead, flipping the “Kevin Hart is Kevin Hart” quality of the film around for something fresh and funnier. A few funny moments but ultimately forgettable.
Night School is released nationwide on 28th September 2018.
Watch the trailer for Night School here: