Night School has the makings of a good movie – it has an interesting (if somewhat seen before) premise, a cast in possession of tried & tested comedy chops and a surprisingly decent soundtrack. It’s a shame, then, that it lacks everything else entirely – a slog in pacing, so lacking in structure that it barely holds itself together until the end credits.
Teddy Walker (Kevin Hart) is a high school dropout. Through sheer luck and chancery, he got a job selling barbeques. He’s pretty good at it too. He’s got a duplex – although he can’t really afford it. He’s got a girlfriend who is way out of his league for whom he pays for everything – although he can’t really afford that either. When he loses his job the only thing he can do is go back to school and get his GED. Thinking he can charm his way into getting his long abandoned, and much needed, qualification, he realises that he’ll actually have to work hard for his unorthodox new teacher, Carrie (Tiffany Haddish). Except the headmaster at night school was his mortal enemy at high school – nearly 20 years later and tensions between Teddy & Stewart (Taran Killam) look ready to disastrous consequences… for Teddy at least…
It starts off well enough. A few well-pitched jokes, enough characterisation to keep interest going and a storyline that just about engages. Then it loses all focus, tension and motivation. It wants to be a dark and edgy comedy but the jokes are so misplaced they end up being either uncomfortable or offensive. Those moments are shoehorned in within sequences that are both safe yet odd, which isn’t exactly an enjoyable combination. And it keeps going, for 111 minutes. That’s almost two hours. Far, far, far too long.
Somehow the film feels even longer when watching it as it is just so bloated and overlong. There aren’t enough jokes for one thing, certainly not enough to pass the 6 laugh test, let alone the ten laugh test. There’s also the fact it’s truly unlikeable. Teddy makes for a very unappealing protagonist who all the other characters seem to like for no reason at all. There is no reason for his two dimensional character of a girlfriend to be in love with him (played by Megalyn Echikunwoke who is given so little to do aside from reacting to Teddy’s antics). There is no reason for his seemingly successful trader best friend to be his number one fan – an utter waste of Ben Schwartz.
Finally, and most grievously, there is no reason for Tiffany Haddish to be wasted as badly as she is here. She is given the bare minimum to do and even then those moments are the film’s best moments. Did director Malcolm D. Lee not learn of her brilliance from working with her in Girls Trip? Did he not see the brilliance we all saw in her performance?
By the time the film kicks into its second act, or the thing within it that can be most closely perceived as its second act, it feels like everyone involved has given up. In front of the camera the performances seem laboured and fully phoned in. Behind the camera there seems to be minimal direction or structure. And in front of the screen? You’ll have given up too.
Dir: Malcolm D. Lee
Scr: Kevin Hart, Harry Ratchford, Joey Wells, Matthew Kellard, Nicholas Stoller, John Hamburg
Cast: Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Ben Schwartz, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Rob Riggle, Taran Killam
Prd: Kevin Hart, James Lopez, Will Packer, Glenda L. Richardson
DOP: Greg Gardiner
Music: David Newman
Run time: 111 minutes
Night School is in UK cinemas from September 28th.