Possible spoilers ahead!
“Night School,” tells the story of High school dropout Teddy Walker (Kevin Hart) who has so far gotten through life lying and selling others a fictionalized version of himself. Teddy has convinced his fiancé Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke) that he’s as successful as she is. But after he accidentally blows up his workplace, Teddy needs a new job fast so he can keep up the facade. But Teddy quickly finds out his employment options are limited because he never graduated high school.
One of Teddy’s best friends promises him a job at his company, but the deal is off until Teddy can go back to school and gets his GED. Teddy isn’t too keen on the idea, but in the meantime, Teddy needs to earn some money and ends up takes a job at a fast food fried chicken joint located next to a strip club. About to hit rock bottom, Teddy has no choice but to sign up for night school classes.
The night school program is run by Carrie (Tiffany Haddish), a tough teacher who pushes her students to be their best. Over the course of the semester, Teddy’s fellow classmates attempt to prepare for the GED exam, while Teddy looks for any shortcut he can find. But Carrie won’t let anyone in her class take the easy way out, and Teddy soon discovers he needs to confront harsh truths about himself in order to get anywhere in life.
Kevin Hart is one of those comedians who I sometimes like and sometimes can’t stand. I thought he was great in “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” but I didn’t care for him in the “Ride Along” movies. That’s basically why I skipped “Night School” during its theatrical run, and when an early scene has Hart using certain hairs to get out of paying a dinner tab, I thought “Oh no, this movie is going to be a disaster. But once the character of Teddy goes to school something funny happened, and “Night School” found its groove.
While I don’t think “Night School” is Kevin Hart’s best work, I will say Teddy was one of his more likable characters. As we learn over the course of the movie, he’s not as lazy as you’d think, there’s a good reason why he washed out of high school as a teen. And the reasons for making his fiancée think he’s more successful is because he doesn’t want to take advantage of her money. Quite frankly, that was refreshing to see in a movie.
Meanwhile, Tiffany Haddish makes for a convincing enough straight-woman to Teddy’s antics. Based on the “Night School” trailers, I thought she was going to be the villain of the film, but I was happy to see play a teacher who really is trying to help her students. I’m not sure this is her best work either, but It showed me he as more range than I previously thought.
For me, the highlight of the movie was Teddy’s classmates, who just made the entire thing better. The supporting cast gets very little character development. but you know enough about each member of the group that it didn’t bother me too much. Out of the classmates, the standout was Mary Lynn Rajskub as a stressed and repressed mother. I thought she had some of the funnier lines in the movie. especially when she mentioned her kids. I also liked how everyone in class became her buddy.
Also worthy of praise is Fat Joe as Bobby. He’s an inmate at a local prison who is also trying to get his GED. Since he’s in prison, Bobby has to take the class via the internet, which leads to one funniest fight scenes you’ve seen in a while. Later in the film, Bobby has a couple of more funny scenes, one with Teddy’s fiancee and one where he “babysits” Mary Lunn Rajskub’s kids.
In the end, I thought the cast in “Night School” was solid for the most part, with a couple of standouts in the supporting parts. However, I do think the script could have used a polish here and there. There really is no reason why this kind of movie needs to be almost two hours long. But, the fact remains that “Night School” isn’t a perfect comedy, but it did make me laugh more than I was expecting.
“Night School” score: C