Kevin Hart has earned my loyalty. What I mean by that is that I have found him hilarious in enough things that I will go see just about anything he’s in, regardless if it looks good. Tiffany Haddish is also reliable, so I was definitely in for this movie.
Night School follows the story of Teddy Walker, who struggled through high school and walked out during a standardized test. We catch up with him in present day, working as a salesman in a barbeque grill store, driving a car he can barely afford, living in an apartment he can barely afford, and about to propose to his girlfriend. He is basically broke because despite earning a decent living (he is a great salesman), he keeps living above his means, and insists on paying for everything with his girlfriend, even though she has a much better job and her own money. A gas grill incident during his proposal results in the store being exploded and Teddy out of a job. As a result, he gets offered a job by his buddy Marvin at his sales firm, but he needs to have a GED to get hired.
This leads to Teddy going back to his old high school to start taking night school courses in order to get his GED. He runs into a little bit of difficulty with the principal, who is his old nemesis from high school. During the course of the process, he bounds with his new classmates and teacher, who helps him realize he has some learning disabilities, and how to work with them. Eventually, he gets the GED, and there’s a happy ending.
Directed by Malcolm D. Lee, who also did The Best Man, Undercover Brother, Roll Bounce, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, Soul Men, The Best Man Holiday, and Girls Trip, Night School tries to be a zany comedy with some heart, and but mostly ends up falling flat. The cast is charming, and some of the bits are funny, but overall it feels like not quite enough.
- Kevin Hart plays Kevin Hart – listen, there’s no problem with being one note if that one note is great, and if you like Kevin Hart – you’ll like him as Teddy in this movie. He’s a guy who is trying his best because he never knew why he couldn’t succeed in school, just that he couldn’t do it. Yes, things would have been better for him had he just been honest with his girlfriend, but it’s a comedy, what do you want?
- Tiffany Haddish is also one note, but again, if you like Tiffany Haddish – you’ll like her in this. She’s very entertaining as the overwhelmed night school teacher, Carrie. She is doing her best to really help the students and make sure they pass the test.
- Taran Killam plays Stewart, Teddy’s old nemesis and current principal. He’s mean and twisted for very little reason, but it is a space Killam fills well.
- Romany Malco plays a little against type as a very strange conspiracy-nut night school student named Jaylen.
- Ben Schwartz plays Teddy’s buddy Marvin, who is there to help give him advice that is never taken.
- Mary Lynn Rajskub plays Theresa, a woman who wants to get her GED to improve her life, because she is completely overwhelmed – even though she keeps ending statements with how blessed she is.
- Vixen number one from the Arrow-verse, Megalyn Echikunwoke plays Teddy’s girlfriend Lisa. She doesn’t have very much to do aside from being disappointed that Teddy felt he had to pay for everything (because she wouldn’t judge him for that, or need it, or expect it), and then shift to proud when he finally graduates.
- Keith David very briefly plays Teddy’s Dad.
- Rob Riggle plays night school classmate Mackenzie who wants to get his GED to convince his son to also graduate. He’s there to be big and dumb, something Riggle excels at.
- Fat Joe plays one of the night school students who Skypes in from prison.
- Al Madrigal plays one of the night school students who wants to further his career as a singer-songwriter. He affects a ‘comical’ Hispanic accent that was played for laughs and therefore a little insulting.
Overall, the cast is good, and the premise had potential, but the material was not as strong as it should have been. It just should have been funnier. Everyone did what they could with what they were handed. Also – why in the world did this not have outtakes over the end credits? This is a movie that really needed it.
5 out of 10 – it’s middle of the road, not terrible, but not great.