Night School | Malcolm D. Lee | Urbanworld 2018/September 28, 2018
Malcolm D. Lee, director of comedies such as Girls Trip, The Best Man, and Undercover Brother is back with his latest comedy, Night School, which ultimately serves as a comedic vehicle for now-established star Kevin Hart and the rising star that is Tiffany Haddish.
Hart plays Teddy Walker, a character who may not have done the best in school but always found a way to talk his way through life. He failed to get his GED in high school but has gotten by working as a salesman at a barbecue-grill store. He lies about his education history and financial situation to his financially successful girlfriend Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke), even though he plans to take the next big step and propose to her upon learning that he may soon be the one running the store.
Being a comedy, things don’t work out all that well for his promotion and soon he’s forced to seek help in the form of a possible job as a stockbroker at the firm where his best friend (Ben Schwartz, recently seen in Blue Iguana) can get him a job. The only issue is he can’t do so unless Teddy has his GED.
Teddy decides to go back to his old high school to enroll in night classes where he plans to sweet talk the teacher and coast by so he can land the sweet gig and finally provide in the way he hopes to for Lisa. Only the night school is run by the non-nonsense Carrie (Tiffany Haddish) and Principal Paterson (Taran Killam), an old rival of Teddy’s from their high school days. While Paterson’s reason for making Teddy’s time at the night school difficult is because of a long-standing petty rivalry, Carrie goes by the book and wants to make sure that her students do it the right way and actually learn something.
The night class features a wide variety of colorful characters of all different backgrounds (played by comedian and 24 alum Mary Lynn Rajskub, The Daily Show alums Rob Riggle and Al Madrigal, and Romany Malco and Anne Winters) whose introductions add up to some of the film’s funniest material. They all have an individual quirk or charm that pairs or contrasts with Teddy, who just wants to get the hell out of there so he can get his dream job.
The script, which was co-written by Hart and five other credited writers, is about as by the numbers and familiar as they come. There’s absolutely nothing new or groundbreaking about the comedic territory that Night School runs through. You know exactly where it is headed and what route it will take from the very first frame.
With a cast stacked with some very good comedic talent, there are enough laughs interjected here and there that allow for some amusing moments. But there misses are far more striking than the hits and as a result, you have a comedic film that is sometimes funny and way too predictable, bringing nothing new to this genre.
Hart can be a funny actor and comedian, but he’s playing the same character that you’ve seen ten times already and you sense that a similar fate of sudden overexposure may be heading in Haddish’s way soon too. The supporting cast actually adds a fresh dose of laughs, especially from talents such as Taran Killam, Romany Malco, and Mary Lynn Rajskub.
Night School is an average comedy that perks up every so often thanks to a funny gag or outrageous moment that hits the mark, but it feels like a movie we’ve seen 100 times before and, as a result, it feels sadly forgettable even as you’re watching it unfold live on screen.
Night School, a Universal Pictures release, is out in theaters September 28th, and it had its East Coast premiere at Urbanworld 2018.