Humor at times, timely issues, mediocre script. The two stars are impressive together.
Grade: C +
Director: Malcolm D. Lee (Girls Trip)
Screenplay: Kevin Hart, et al.
Cast: Kevin Hart (Central Intelligence), Tiffany Haddish (Keanu)
Runtime: 1 hr 51 min
By: John DeSando
A genuinely mediocre comedy is welcome at this transition time of year when we’ve had our fill of superheroes and dramas that aren’t quite good enough for prime-time Oscar. Night School is just such a middlin’ comedy, not brilliant in Some-Like-It-Hot dazzle but just witty enough occasionally for the audience’s laughter to drown out the screen dialogue.
Kevin Hart plays Teddy, a high school dropout who has made some money as a salesman with the promise of claiming the business when the owner retires. An explosion with no insurance sends Teddy to fast food jobs, insecurity, and night school, where he meets a tough but caring teacher, Carol (Tiffany Haddish).
When he first meets her at a stoplight, these two loudmouths shout insults across their cars for minutes with repartee worthy of screwball comedy. In other parts of the story they exchange well enough to be remembered as a comic duo worthy of seeing again. She always the teacher, he always the rebellious student and barely a hint of romance in the story.
As in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the supporting players help to make it an amusing, if not culturally appropriate, comedy. Although their fates, including the arc of the hostile principal, can be seen far ahead, they manage to endear themselves despite the stereotypes and clichés.
One of the humorous scenes is a prison fight skyped into the classroom thanks to one of the inmates taking the course electronically. As a character exclaims after the fight, nobody paid attention to it probably because so much goofiness was going on in front of the screen.
Night School’s emphasis on the need to finish high school via GED is admirable, and the warmth that comes from the students’ camaraderie and the care of the teacher is the right point to make about the need for fellowship to help through tough times. The film also gives big support for going back anytime to take the GED. This comedy confirms what might be expected that notwithstanding the exceptions, most of us need to get our educations to better ourselves in our competitive society.
Additionally, the film’s reluctance to have much not turn out right is admirable, a touch of reality in otherwise a light-weight film with effective lessons for navigating the modern world.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com