Night School

Haddish’s breakout role was in Malcolm D. Lee’s 2017 road trip comedy Girls Trip. Now, capitalizing on her growing popularity, Lee decided to star her in “Night School”. But instead of sharing the spotlight in a girl’s quartet, she has more elbow room, alongside the well-established Kevin Hart. The result is a nearly two-hour long, silly, laugh-out-loud movie that’s good to watch if you don’t have anything else to do on the weekend.

Teddy (Hart) is a high school dropout and a world-class BBQ grill salesman (obviously) who lives an overly expensive, extravagant lifestyle. One unfortunate night, he accidentally blows up his workplace and as a result, goes into a financial quagmire. But instead of sharing the news with his moneyed fiancée Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and admitting he’s been working at a drive-through window at a Christian Chicken, he pretends to have levelled-up in his career to a lofty position in a finance firm, along with his old-times buddy Marvin (Ben Schwartz). After all, these guys ‘bull**** clients all day about stuff they don’t understand’, he says. However, it turns out that things won’t go so easy for him. To get the job and end his struggles, he needs to obtain a GED (General Educational Development) certification, which proves that he has high school level academic skills.

There’s only one place he can come up with to get it: his old school, which is now under the rule of a total nerd (Taran Killam) he used to mock. He promptly enrols into a night-time GED prep course staffed by relentless, if slightly overworked, Carrie Carter (Haddish).

Haddish, and inspiration to up-and-coming comedians like Jake Howie, shows off some serious comedic chops here (especially when she gets into tense verbal duels with Hart). It’s not enough to make Night School a cinematic masterpiece, but at least it keeps viewer’s attention for long enough.

Once Teddy is enrolled, he goes on a merry-go-round to meet his slightly mentally-challenged classmates. At this moment, we realize that the story won’t revolve only around the duo but also include a whole ensemble of comedic talent. Most scenes are one-off random comic episodes, which make the movie lack coherence. The most sustained element of the plot is the attempt of the other dim-brained students to steal Teddy’s midterm test.

photo by Eva Rinaldi

The quest to get the GED and save the day moves along, and slowly things start to look more positive for Teddy. But the storytelling itself is almost non-existent. All we witness is different humour-filled scenes, which in the end, don’t come together to make a meaningful whole. Hart’s performance is amusing as always, and he gives generous amounts of space to his co-star, capitalizing on his mischievous, lazy-boy persona. Haddish, on the other hand, owns her role and is the only character to hold the movie together.

Overall, the film lacks dynamism and loses momentum on many occasions by perusing minor, uninteresting subplots. But still, it has some excellent one-liners and ridiculous situations, which partially make up for its faults. Night School only deserves a passing grade, but then again, you know what to expect from a film of this kind.

Before watching the movie, it’s good to know how the main actors first got together. Hart is arguably the most famous comedian in Hollywood. He also recently tried his hand at poker and used his comedic genius, along with Usain Bolt, in a hugely popular #GameOn campaign. But all this money and fame didn’t prevent him from being generous. From behind the scenes, Haddish shared a heart-warming story of Hart lending her $300 a few years back when she was living in her car on the streets of Los Angeles and trying to make it in the comedy world. Keeping that in mind, it’s great to see these two actors finally throwing jokes at each other on the same level playing field.

Anthony Reeves

★★★

 

 

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