Night School, which stars Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, feels like one of those movies that has been sitting on a shelf for years, waiting for its stars to become famous so that the studio can cash in on what should have been a straight-to-Redbox offering. It is not. Tiffany Haddish signed onto this after the success of Girls Trip.
The idea of pairing Kevin Hart — coming off of a successful string of movies with Dwayne Johnson — and Tiffany Haddish while her star is continuing to rise seems like a no-brainer, but unfortunately, it’s the script that’s the no-brainer. Despite the existence of six writers (including Hart and even Nicholas Stoller), there’s no actual comedy in this comedy movie. Director Malcolm D. Lee (himself coming off of Girls Trip) seems to believe that if Kevin Hart brays obnoxiously, the audience will laugh. Tiffany Haddish, meanwhile, is completely wasted in a straight-woman role, cast in what seems to be a part more suited to Queen Latifah — the loving, maternal type that Latifah can do in her sleep. Girls Trip is a movie that succeeded because of the charming cast and almost in spite of the directing and the script; here, the cast (which also includes Taran Killam, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Romany Malco, Ben Schwartz, and Rob Riggle) is completely useless in the face of writing this mediocre and directing this uninspired.
Hart plays Teddy Walker, a high-school dropout who loses his job as a BBQ grill salesman after he accidentally blows up the store while proposing to his girlfriend (Megalyn Echikunwoke). His best friend (Schwartz) offers him a job as a financial analyst at his firm, but only if he can get his GED. So, he enrolls in night school at his old high school, where the principal (Killam) hates him because back in the day, Teddy revealed to the entire school that he has a third nipple. Haddish plays the teacher, while Malco, Riggle, et. al, play the other students. The assortment of students — who initially dislike one another — bond over their experiences in night school, and eventually become good friends while pursuing their GEDs.
There’s not really much else to add, except that Night School is not only unbearably bad, but it is also ungodly long, clocking in at 111 minutes, including what must have been a 15-minute sequence in which each of the night-school students introduces themselves. It’s the perfect example of so many scenes in the movie, where the comedy is not bad so much as that there is not even an attempt at comedy being made. The jokes and the gags in Night School are uniformly terrible, but there are also long stretches of the movie where there are no jokes or gags employed, where there’s not even an attempt to use Hart and Haddish’s ad-libbing skills. It’s dead air, occasionally punctuated by the grating yowls of Kevin Hart. Putting comedic actors in a movie does not alone make it a “comedy,” and often Night School is not even a “bad” comedy, because that would suggest it made an attempt. It’s more akin to watching a talented gymnast mill around in the vicinity of a balance beam for two hours and calling it a Gymnastics Competition. That’s not a competition; it’s just a dude wearing tights.
Header Image Source: Universal