Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Can someone teach Kevin Hart that yelling and screaming obnoxiously isn’t funny?
“Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle” - my favorite Hart movie to date - was a step back from his annoying and childish antics. At least with that film, it appeared as though he was maturing into a decent comedic actor, and that given the proper character he can produce a staple of earned laughs.
Except his latest: “Night School” isn’t such a performance and provides the actors’ worst picture since “Ride Along 2.” Which is a shame because the guy seems genuine with a humble personality (and I wanna like his movies) but his films are tasteless - and worse: painfully unfunny.
Thankfully, Tiffany Haddish gets second billing, reuniting with her “Girls Trip” director Malcolm D. Lee, and she’s easily the best thing “Night School” has to offer the average moviegoer; playing a teacher at a rundown high school, hustling to make a living. Even comping an extra paycheck by pulling double duty as a night school instructor for adults trying to get their GED certification. And that’s where the bumbling, squirmish, and high school dropout Teddy (Hart) comes into the picture.
Because Teddy is all over the place in terms of job placement, he needs to finish up school before he can land a satisfying career as a finance advisor for a big firm. And instead of telling his soon-to-be wife, Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke) about his plan to re-enroll (or that he’s a dropout to begin with) he lies, in fear that she’ll reject him for being a loser.
That’s not all this lazy script has cooked up for us; it also features a variety of ethnic stereotypes, gross-out-gags involving pubic hair, and a traditional Hart performance that wears thin very quickly.
As for the lineup of students in Ted’s class: a talented group of fine actors are assembled, from Rob Riggle (doing his Riggle thing) to veteren Mary Kynn Rajskub doing their best to save face. And then there's Haddish, who is just so good that she almost rises above it, showcasing that in order to be funny - subtly goes a long way. Hart should take note.
Not that you’ll be able to extend a sincere hand at believability in this picture anyway, because people in real life hardly behave and speak like the characters in this film (You’d think with as much as Teddy struggled in school prior, his parents would’ve had him tested?) And just when you think “Night School” could be going in a refreshing direction, it does a flip and tarnishes a solid laugh with unnecessary force and stupidity. Signifying that Lee doesn’t think his audience will chuckle unless the punchline is blatantly obvious. Not sure how dumb he thinks we are.
In the grand scheme of things, I’m not sure what I expected from “Night School”. I suppose to laugh. And I probably would’ve if not for Hart’s ability to poke fun at learning disabilities (“I’ve got learning herpes?!” Hart screams after discovering he’s got a disability). I’m no prude, and hardly take offense to comedians pushing the limits, however, in this case, it just never connected or seemed warranted.
Ultimately, what you get with “Night School” is a cheap sitcom, with even cheaper ethics and standards. We’re all better than this movie. Even Hart, despite his tendency to produce the dumpster fire of cinema, is better than this. But neither he nor Haddish have the ability to save what’s in front of them. While I give them credit for trying their hardest, it’s still not enough to pass the test.