Night School (12A)



Comedy (2018)
111mins US

Starring: Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart, Taran Killam, Mary Lynn Rajskub
Director: Malcolm D Lee
Writer(s): Harry Ratchford, Kevin Hart, Joey Wells, Nicholas Stoller, John Hamburg, Matthew Kellard
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Teddy Walker is one of the best salesmen of grills and barbecues and he hopes to capitalise on that success by proposing to his beautiful girlfriend Lisa. His plan culminates in an explosion that leaves poor Teddy in need of a new job. A good friend, who works for a firm of stockbrokers, would love to hire Teddy except he dropped out of Piedmont High School a couple of credits shy of graduating. If Teddy wants to secure a well-paid career and provide for Lisa, he will have to go back into education.

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LondonNet Film Review
Night School (12A)

Higher learning fails every test except base humour and lazy racial stereotypes in director Malcolm D Lee's coming-of-middle-age comedy. Based on a script credited to six writers including leading man Kevin Hart, Night School revises the tropes of high school movies since The Breakfast Club but can't muster an original thought in almost two hours. It's profoundly depressing that comic whirlwind Tiffany Haddish, who single-handedly made Girls Trip one of last year's guiltiest pleasures, isn't given the material to achieve top grades. Instead, her teacher addresses the wavering focus of one student "with a boat load of learning disabilities" by kicking and punching the terrified charge in a boxing ring until he can recount the elemental composition of water with her leg choking him around the neck...

Night School. Copyright: Universal Pictures. Caption: Tiffany Haddish as Carrie and Kevin Hart as Teddy Walker in Night School, directed by Malcolm D. Lee. Photo: Eli Ade. All Rights Reserved.The so-called punchline to these overblown bouts of tough love is Haddish's educator demonstrating the release of methane into her student's face. What a gas! Hart's flawed hero grates on the nerves and co-stars hang performances on single character traits. A prom night dance-off, an inspirational graduation speech and the ham-fisted theft of an examination paper are casually tossed into the bland mix.

Teddy Walker (Hart) is the leading salesman of grills at Joe's BBQ City in Atlanta. He hopes to capitalise on this giddy success by proposing to girlfriend Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke). Best-laid romantic plans leave poor Teddy in urgent need of employment. Stockbroker pal Marv (Ben Schwartz) would dearly love to hire Teddy except he dropped out of school a couple of credits shy of graduation. If Teddy wants to secure a well-paid career and take care of Lisa, he must go back to school to pass his General Educational Development test (GED).

Following an awkward conversation with Piedmont High School's principal Stewart Patowski (Taran Killam), Teddy enrols in night classes with a motley crew of misfits including Jaylen (Romany Malco), aspiring singer-songwriter Luis (Al Madrigal), proud father Mackenzie (Rob Riggle), unhappy mother Theresa (Mary Lynn Rajskub) and teenage reprobate Mila (Anne Winters), who is begrudgingly at school to avoid juvenile detention. A convict called Bobby (Jacob Batalan) attends remotely via video. The group's no-nonsense teacher, Carrie (Haddish), warns that she will not tolerate time-wasters. "If you want to succeed in my class, you have to do the work," she plainly informs students and Teddy realises he has finally met someone who is impervious to his slick patter.

Night School graduates without a single decent laugh. Narrative arcs trace predictable paths and the final 10 minutes are beset with cloying sentimentality. Occasional gross-out humour (Riggle suffers the indignity of taking a blast of vomit to his face) scrapes the bottom of the barrel. The rest of Lee's picture floats nearby.

- Jo Planter

Night School. Copyright: Universal Pictures. Caption: Tiffany Haddish as Carrie and Kevin Hart as Teddy Walker in Night School, directed by Malcolm D. Lee. Photo: Eli Ade. All Rights Reserved.


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