By Darlene Donloe
When you have a movie that stars two of today’s funniest comedians, it should be a nonstop, side-splitting laughfest. Should is the operative word.
Instead, Night School, which stars Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, is just OK. There are laughs, but not even close to the amount the pairing should have delivered. Haddish, who is Hollywood’s “it” girl right now, was given very little to do. She plays the straight character to Hart’s antics.
Hart seems to have one acting speed and he seldom, if ever, ventures beyond his limits.
Unfortunately, in this film – scenes, some of which don’t make any sense, are set up to get a laugh, but some of them fall flat.
So, here’s the story. Hart’s character, Teddy, who sells barbecues at a huge warehouse, is on the fast track to being a successful business owner when his boss confides in him that when he retires/dies, he plans to leave the barbecue business to him. Teddy is ecstatic. With his impending good luck looming, he decides to ask his girlfriend to marry him. He brings her to the barbecue warehouse where he has set up a romantic setting complete with candles and champagne. Unbeknownst to Teddy, while popping the cork on the champagne, the cork hits a propane tank and releases the gas. That mixed with the burning candles causes - KABOOM!
Teddy is left without a job. He quickly finds out that without a college degree – the job market looks bleak. He eventually has to take a job dressing up as a chicken to hawk an establishment called Christian Chicken. When one of his close friends tells him he could hire him if he had his GED, Teddy decides to go back to school.
As fate would have it, the night school teacher is a woman he just had a verbal spat with on the street and the principal is a kid he used to bully when the two of them went to the school decades earlier.
His classmates are a hodgepodge of adults who must also attend Night School. Fat Joe plays a prisoner taking the course via Skype; Al Madrigal is a waiter fired after an incident where Teddy tried to skip out on the check; Anne Winters is given much to do; Mary Lynn Rajskub is a mother trying to get away from her kids. She keeps reminding everyone that she is “blessed.” Rob Riggle is, well, typical Rob Riggle. And then there is Romany Malco, who tries to make sense of his conspiracy theorist. Malco who serves up a lot of the funny zings in the movie nearly steals it right out from under Hart and Haddish. That doesn’t take much.
To ensure he passes the GED, Teddy hatches a plan to steal the test. He enlists the help of his fellow classmates. It’s a purely stupid caper, followed by several stupid scenes.
While in Night School the group, helmed by Haddish’s character (Carrie Carter), decide to go to the school prom, which, not surprisingly, is happening while they are in class. Of course, they go and become hits at the party.
Night School feels like it was a vehicle to show off the talents of Haddish and Hart. That doesn’t happen. Neither one of the powerhouse comics stands out.
Night School tries hard to be funny. It has its moments but falls short. Director Malcolm D. Lee probably thought the second time was the charm as it relates to pairing up with Haddish, whom he directed in Girls Trip.
That being said, Night School is good for a couple of giggles.
Night School, Malcolm D. Lee’s latest comedy written by Kevin Hart, Harry Ratchford, Joey Wells, Nicholas Stoller, John Hamburg, Matthew Kellard, stars Hart, Haddish, Romany Malco, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Taran Killam and Rob Riggle.
On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (oh, yeah), Night School gets an L (likable).
Rating: PG-13 (for crude and sexual content throughout, language, some drug references and violence), 1h 51m.