NIGHT SCHOOL

I’m not really a big fan of his, but there’s certainly no debate that Kevin Hart is an absolute megastar. Not only is he currently one of the most popular standup comedians around, but he’s crafted quite an impressive film and television career too. Now, he’s gone onto writing and producing his own films with his own production company Hartbeat Productions. How does he fare? 
 
Teddy Walker (Kevin Hart) is a high school dropout who makes a living working as a salesman at a barbecue grill store. Finding out the store is going to be left to him when the owner retires, Teddy excitedly proposes to his girlfriend Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke) so they can start their successful future together. Those prospects are soon dashed as a mishap leaves Teddy unemployed, but his friend Marvin (Ben Schwartz) offers him a job at his investment firm. The catch? Teddy needs to get his GED. Completely out of options, Teddy enrolls in Night School, taught by the incredibly strict Carrie (Tiffany Haddish), in order to improve his life. 
 
Another thing I can’t fault Kevin Hart for is that he’s certainly dedicated and passionate, as evidenced here with Night School, which he co-wrote with five other writers(!!!). It’s basically the Kevin Hart show, with everything you expect from him. A lot of fast talking, high pitched screaming, and quirky grimaces and mannerisms. If you’re a fan of Hart, there’s probably a lot to like here, but he’s never really been for me. The crutch that props up the film and makes it even mildly funny is Tiffany Haddish, who almost insultingly doesn’t get enough screentime. I haven’t seen Haddish in a whole lot, but she had me cackling with almost every line, and I’m not typically a fan of loud and obnoxious characters (i.e. Kevin Hart). Her timing and delivery are simply impeccable and she amusingly plays off every character with ease. With how the film was advertised and what it’s about, you think she would be a major character, second to only Hart. Unfortunately, she doesn’t show up until 20 minutes in and there are long stretches where she’s absent. She’s a character who’s there for the plot only and doesn’t get any meaningful resolution to the character they attempt to build up. 
 
During those long stretches without Haddish was when I noticed I wasn’t laughing and was just really bored. This is due to unfocused nature of the narrative, which is really flimsy and just acts as a device for comedic scenarios. Now, every comedy movie has narratives that exist to have the characters get into humorous situations, but everything here felt pretty disconnected. There’s a large stretch of the film in the middle where Teddy and his other night school classmates break into the school to steal exam answers. This scene, and many others, run for way too long, although I respect that it gave the rest of the side cast plenty of the room to have some fun. While I didn’t care for Hart, other cast members like Romany Malco, Rob Riggle, and Mary Lynn Rajskub were enjoyable, but a lot of these characters and gags felt right out of a mid-2000’s comedy. 
 
If your comedy film isn’t going to make me laugh very much, then you better at least have a decent story and characters to keep my interest. What we get here is your typical broad comedy where a character with bad habits has to learn how to change them if he wants to get what he wants. It results in a lot of hackneyed sentimentality at the end where the film tries to have a heart. This is a bit more lighthearted than most mainstream comedies, however, so that sentimentality sort of works. By that time, though, the disjointed narrative and lack of focus made it fall completely flat with the “message” it tried to have. 
 
Night School has a great premise and a scene stealing performance from Tiffany Haddish, but the rest of the committed cast can’t save the disconnected plot, poor structure and pacing, and a bland lead star from boring me most of the time. Unfortunately, it seems like Hart was more focused on acting goofy and obnoxious instead of actually trying to make a fun and funny comedy. We’ll see if that changes in any other Hartbeat productions, but I doubt it. 
 
4/10

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