Night Schoolby Wilson Morales
September 28, 2018
What happens when you can get the hottest comedians in town right now and put them in a film together? When you think of Kevin Hart, coming off the success of Jumanji, and the blazing hot Tiffany Haddish, who bursted into stardom after Girls Trip, one would expect magic of epic proportions in their joint film, Night School right? Sadly, that is not the case. With a script where only of the leads is giving something funny to say while the other plays it straight, it does a disservice to their audience that comes out hoping to laugh out loud. With six credited screenwriters, including Hart, director Malcolm D. Lee may have been asking himself, “Who’s on first?”
Hart plays Teddy Walker, a successful BBQ grill salesman who’s done well for himself without a high school diploma. After his boss tells him he will be in charge of the company when he retires, Teddy looks to impress his girlfriend Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke) at a group dinner by offering to pay for all even though his best friend Marvin (Ben Schwartz) knows he can’t afford to do so. Later, while proposing to Lisa at his job, an accident occurs that leaves him jobless.
Knowing how personable and successful Teddy can be, Marvin offers him a job at his investment firm as a financial analyst under one condition. He needs to go back to school and get his GED. A flashback shows Teddy in high school walking out during exams and never returning to school. Assuming he can charm his way to get a GED without attending classes, Teddy is stopped in his tracks by Stewart (Taran Killam), the school principal who also happens to be an old high school acquaintance Teddy bullied.
Luckily, Carrie Carter (Tiffany Haddish), who’s serious and level-headed, is there to let Teddy be in her night school class, along with other adult misfits that includes Theresa (Mary Lynn Rajskub), a hardworking mom with several kids who got pregnant in high school and is now trying to earn her GED; Mackenzie (Rob Riggle), who’s there to get his GED so his adult son can do the same; Jaylen (Romany Malco), whose reasons for being there isn’t clear but has a sense of paranoia and constantly watches his back.
Through his smooth talking, Teddy tries to get the others to help him ace his exams quickly so that he can get back to being successfully employed and not have Lisa find out about his lack of education or his late night activities. With Stewart and Carter watching him and making sure he’s doing thing right, his quest for a quickly solution isn’t as easy as he expected.
Like he’s done with his previous films, Hart is all in physically when it comes to doing what it takes to get you to burst out with laughter and when he’s flying in the air and lands on his Porsche after his grill shop blows up is proof of that, but then everything else seems like he’s trying to much; especially when Tiffany isn’t given any funny materials to complement him. If fact, one could say that she was miscast. The role isn’t meant for a comedian, otherwise Haddish could have ad-libbed some scenes and make it work. The script didn’t give her much to do in terms of using her funny bones. Another drawback haw wasted talented actresses Bresha Webb and Yvonne Orji are in the film. In her first big film since she’s been on HBO’s Insecure, Orji is playing the thankless role of Megan’s girlfriend with a few lines that go nowhere. Even newcomer Deboyah Ayorinde had more to do in Girls Trip as the mistress to Mike Colter’s character in that film.
The saving grace and basically the scene stealer is Romany Malco. As the WOKE brother in the film, Malco carries the barrel of laughs that we were waiting for. Every time he said “That’s what up,” the chuckles of laughter were rightly deserved. Lee can only do with what’s on the page, even directing a silly MMA cage fight between Haddish and Hart. The script needed to let her loose to do what she does best and it didn’t. In the end, Night School plays a paint-by-numbers scenario where the outcome is predictable and with a few jokes that works. It’s not the funniest film, or funny, but it does has some fun that will at least please some.