“Night School” (2018)
Running Time: 111 minutes
Written by: Kevin Hart, Harry Ratchford, Joey Wells, Matt Kellard, Nicholas Stoller and John Hamburg
Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee
Featuring: Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Rob Riggle, Romany Malco, Taran Killam, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Al Madrigal, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Keith David, Anne Winters, Fat Joe, Ben Schwartz, Yvonne Orji and Bresha Webb
Mila: “Aren’t you a little old to be a pop-star?”
Luis:“Aren’t you a little young to die?”
In 2001, high school student Teddy Walker drops out of school when he finds himself unable to concentrate during a crucial test.
This week sees the release, on DVD and Blu-ray of the latest comedy vehicle for Kevin Hart as well as rising star Tiffany Haddish in the comedy “Night School” (2018), a movie that is as formulaic as a comedy could be. If there is one thing has been proven over the past few years it is that if you make a comedy then it had better have a strong original idea at its heart, an idea that permeates the narrative but also has something else as well, that is some kind of human drama or stakes to keep it honest. It has definitely been a very good year so far for comedies with “Blockers” (2018), “Book Club” (2018), “Game Night” (2018), “Life of the Party”(2018), along with many others, as well as the promise of more to come before the year is out. The question is: Where does “Night School” fall? Well, audiences are not really being asked to believe the plot, which is a mild rip off of a few other older better movies, rather they want to watch what should be two comedians strut their stuff in the way they proven before, however what they get is a PG movie where both look like deer stuck in headlights neither really being funny or showing much chemistry at all.
There are two obvious impediments to this movie, one is the director Malcolm D. Lee whose career has been hit and miss to say the least, however he has directed on bon a fide hit in “Girls Trip” (2017), which was also where Tiffany Haddish broke out, it seems like a big step down to this movie, also a little disappointing that this was the result of that hilarious project that was not only a massive hit at the box office, but was also a critical hit as well. Lee is not a gifted director of comedies, he seems to be at his best with dramas that have comedic aspects, which is proven with this lifeless movie, which needed far more originality to make it stick. The other more troubling of this movie is the sheer amount of credited writers, it has at least seven, which, for a movie like this is overkill, it appears to have had issues, then passed around to punch it up to make it better, it definitely has not. “Night School” is one of those movies that has become commonplace in Hollywood, a ‘frankenfilm, a movie made by committee, stitched together throughout production, trying to please everyone to maximise the amount of people who pay to see it in cinemas, which actually leads to a movie that no one want to see. While this movie did all right at the box office it would not have been the hit that was expected, in fact after marketing it may have made a loss, which is a shame for all involved with all aspects of production.
“Night School” begins in 2001, high school student Teddy Walker drops out of school when he finds himself unable to concentrate during a crucial test. Years later, in 2018, he works as a barbecue grill salesman while dating a wealthy woman named Lisa. As he proposes to Lisa in the shop, Teddy accidentally triggers an explosion when a champagne cork pops open a gas tank, with the manager taking the insurance from the explosion and running away. Jobless, Teddy learns he could get a job, but he needs a GED. Teddy goes to his old high school in the belief that he can just charm the new principal into giving him the relevant qualification, but this plan is ruined from the start with the discovery that the principal is Stewart, who Teddy bullied when he was at school.
This is first ad foremost a Kevin Hart movie, at this stage in his career he has become a brand much like many other celebrities who has had a lot of success, however at the movies his biggest triumphs have been in movies where he is either the second lead or part of a ensemble cast such as “Central Intelligence” (2016) and “Jumanji” (2017). However what this has done is to also expose Hart to an international audience, which increases awareness both positively as well as negatively. It is difficult to understand but Hart was riding high up to a month or two ago when he was announced as the host for this years Oscars, then was abruptly fired after some tweets cam to light which can drive people away, however with his latest movie being a hit “The Upside” (2019), it seems he has dodged a built in terms of his career and bankability. In this movie Hart is the star so he really should have had a say about the direction of this movie as well as his character, which are the key reasons this movie does not work. To be fair Haddish as a co-star and definite supporting player cannot be blamed she is not at the status where she is anything more than a gun for hire but here she is left hanging by a bad script.
What the movie is made up of are a sad variety of boiler plate series of loosely edited together scenes of Teddy, his drearily ‘wacky’ class mates, his sassy and hard-driving teacher and sundry other cliches of every high-school comedy ever made, filling out the running time until the inevitable triumphal graduation speech. But if you’ve seen the trailer, you have already heard the only funny lines in the entire film. If you want to pay money to watch the interminable minutes between them, then knock yourself out.
If you enjoy Kevin Hart as well as a variety of other comedic character actors then this will be a harmless diversion for a few hours, it never reaches the heights of great comedy but sits somewhere between movies like “Tag” (2018) and “CHIPS”(2017) which is not a good thing. At best this is worth a watch on a streaming service and does not need to be added to any collection, it is barely worth one watch let alone revisiting.