Jacob Richardson | 29/09/2018
A decidedly average, standard Kevin Hart comedy that never truly fulfils the potential of it’s much hyped Hart-Haddish team up.
When Teddy Walker (Kevin Hart) drops out of school, his classmates don’t think he’ll amount to much. But when we rejoin him in the present day, he’s doing pretty well; a beautiful girlfriend who has just agreed to be his wife, a Porsche, a stunning apartment and a burgeoning career as future owner of a BBQ store. Alas, it all goes to hell when he accidentally explodes said BBQ store. Faced with the dilemma of trying to find a job to maintain his lifestyle without a high school diploma, Teddy goes back to school - night school, where his fast-talking teacher Carrie (Tiffany Haddish) has to whip him into shape.
Direct by Malcolm D. Lee, Night School is barely serviceable as a comedy. It feels like a bare bones structured script, with plenty of room for improvisation. The problem is, the improvisation is generally terrible.
Hart feels like he is running on empty here. He isn’t doing anything we haven’t seen him do before, and seen him do better before. He is still streets ahead of the supporting cast. Taron Killam’s angry manchild principal is entirely unlikeable, Rob Riggle hams it up in a way that never lands any laughs, and the rest of the cast barely makes an impression.
The one standout is Haddish, who lights up the screen with charm and wit whenever she is given the chance to improvise. Whether she is cracking jokes, acting as the straight man to this ridiculous class, or whipping Kevin Hart in a chicken suit, Haddish is a major talent. Unfortunately, Lee doesn’t know how to use her to best effect, and instead sidelines her for much of the film. It’s a shame, because there is a much better movie under here, but it’s only ever glimpsed when Haddish is on screen.
There also really isn’t a strong story here. A small germ of an idea is turned into a film that often feels like it’s grasping to even make it’s smallish runtime. Bits like Hart’s job as a chicken suit wearing mascot for a Christian chicken store go down like a lead balloon, and make this interminable, unfunny comedy drag on. And as boring as they are, they wouldn’t be half as bad if there weren’t genuinely funny parts with Haddish. The lost potential is what stings most.
A wasted premise, even worse for the occasional flashes of hilarity from Haddish.