Night School: Lame Comedy Wastes Bankable Leads, Audience Good Will

By Kim Hughes

Rating: D

A ragtag group of zany but lovable misfits seeking to earn their high school equivalency diplomas are thrown together under the tutelage of a brassy but dedicated teacher. Along the way, the group learns that they really can accomplish anything they set their minds to, including earning their GEDs!

Haddish and Hart. Will Ferrell can rest easy for the moment.

Haddish and Hart. Will Ferrell can rest easy for the moment.

Sound novel and like something you want to throw good money at and then spend two hours watching? Because that’s the unfathomably idiotic, been-there-seen-that Night School, a comedy clearly hoping to capitalize on the currency of Kevin Hart (who also produces) and especially, on Tiffany Haddish, who brings outsize sizzle comparable to what she delivered in Malcolm D. Lee’s Girls Trip but without the story or cast to support her.

Lee’s work here bears none of the winningly outrageous hallmarks of that fun film. You’ve probably heard punchier dialog at dinner parties. And while the leads are not cast as romantic partners (Hart is paired up with someone even more unlikely in the screamingly foxy Megalyn Echikunwoke) there is an almost shocking lack of comedic chemistry between the two. Will Ferrell can rest easy for the moment.

Hart plays the street-smart Teddy Walker, a high school dropout whose career as a barbeque salesman is scuppered by an unfortunate explosion. He has a chance to climb the career ladder, and actually become all the things he pretends to be to his highly accomplished fiancée, but he must first secure his GED. The unconventional (nay, law-breaking) Haddish is his teacher and unlikely ticket to redemption.

In class, Teddy finds a rogue collection of keeners (the oppressed housewife, the convict studying via Skype, the immigrant) also needing their diplomas to push forward with their lives. Standing in their way is a villainous, baseball bat–wielding principal and Teddy’s former classmate, played by SNL’s Taran Killam acting like a man wearing cement boots and itchy underwear.

Sigh. The rest is a series of predictable capers (stealing the final test, which provides the film’s one genuinely funny scene) punctuated by a mystifying and gratuitous mixed martial arts sequence before the night school students overcome and graduate. The end. Viewers are also subjected to more Kevin Hart short jokes. Like we weren’t aware. But for a wee fella, he sure can stink up a movie, huh?

I could add more plot details, but you don’t need them and it won’t make Night School any more worthy of recommendation. It’s terrible. Go see Lizzie or Bad Reputation or Minding the Gap or even Hold the Dark instead.

Night School. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee. Starring Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart, Taran Killam, and Rob Riggle. Opens wide September 28.