Night School (rated T)
Cast: Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Romany Malco, Rob Riggle
It’s not all that often that the title of a movie perfectly sums up exactly what that film needs most, not what it’s all about; many do a good job of coming up with the right name to convey that. But this film title prescribes what would be the best thing for it, perhaps to fix a particular ailment.
Well, give the new comedy “Night School” an A+ for nailing its own diagnosis, as it desperately could have used a tutor, extra classes or even a whole year of school to unlock its full potential.
As it clearly got no such assistance, “Night School”, like a high school senior who is only concerned about partying and going to prom, and obviously rarely cracks open a book, is an unbelievable waste of talent and a disappointing waste of time.
Kevin Hart plays Teddy Walker, a successful salesman whose life takes an unexpected turn when he accidentally blows up his place of employment. Forced to attend night school to get his GED, Teddy soon finds himself dealing with a group of misfit students, his former high school nemesis and a feisty teacher (Tiffany Haddish) who doesn’t think he’s too bright.
“Night School” has a premise that’s rife with opportunities, and it starts off well enough. But just as it should be kicking into high gear, it seems to fall off a cliff into the deepest, most mediocre ravine.
The biggest problem, as is often the case with those who clown their way straight through school, is that it doesn’t fully utilize its vast resources. In this case, that’s Haddish.
If you’re going by the promos and trailers from this heavily advertised flick, you might think it’s primarily about the interactions between Hart and Haddish, who is almost as hot as Hart is at this time, and fresh off her Emmy win as a guest host on “Saturday Night Live” last season.
She is featured prominently in the ads and billboards, likely in hopes of capitalizing on the “Girls Trip” star’s red-hotness! But it’s false advertising, and Haddish seems to be barely in half the film. The failure to expand her role and fully flesh out her character is a critical misstep. Each scene she’s in is enhanced by her presence, and the chemistry between Hart and Haddish is undeniable.
Instead, though, we are schooled with something that over-emphasizes some utterly ridiculous moments with Hart’s night school comrades. While there’s the occasionally funny one-liner, most of these scenes are uninspired and derivative.
That, too, is quite unfortunate because “Night School” features a great supporting cast with some incredibly funny actors, including Romany Malco (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and TV’s “Weeds”), Taran Killam (“Saturday Night Live”), Rob Riggle (TV’s “The Daily Show” and “Fox NFL Sunday”) and even rapper Big Pun. But the cast is wasted and not given enough of anything with sense to do.
Like a teacher left scratching his head at how his most enthusiastic student could so miserably fail the final exam, you’re left to wonder what in God’s name went so wrong.
The only possible use I can see for “Night School” is as a teaching tool in high schools; a cautionary tale on how sad one could be if you make a fool of yourself and even think about dropping out.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.
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