“I’m just not what you would call ‘a night-school person,’” says Teddy (Kevin Hart). “If you want to succeed in my class,” says high-school teacher Carrie (Tiffany Haddish), “you need to do the work. I’m here to teach; you’re here to learn. If not, leave my class.” But Teddy can’t leave. A high-school drop-out in 2001 and, now, unemployed 17 years later, he needs a GED to get another job and marry his fiancée. That’s the setup for this unfunny, alleged comedy.
Can Teddy overcome learning disabilities and earn a GED? Does fiancée Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke) wait for him? Will you be entertained by “Night School”? I wasn’t.
This is Kevin Hart’s movie. He’s Teddy Walker, natural-born salesman who’s on the cusp of success until — in a way-too-long prologue — his prospects (literally) go up in smoke. Out of work, no money, he’s so desperate for the GED he needs to qualify for a good sales job, he’s willing to steal to get it. “Night school,” he says, “is about second chances. Night school is all that I have.” Tiffany Haddish is a treat as Carrie, a no-nonsense teacher who’s tough in the classroom and even tougher in a mixed martial-arts gym, where she pounds her lessons into poor Teddy. Megalyn Echikunwoke is Lisa, Teddy’s expensive fiancée, with whom he’s head-over-heels. “With you by my side,” he says in his proposal, “anything is possible.”
Others in the cast include Teddy’s classmates: Theresa (Mary Lynn Rajskud) whose loutish husband got her pregnant in high school, “Big Mac” (Rob Riggle), who has a bad back and needs a desk job, and Luis (Al Madrigal), Latino ex-waiter who wants to be Justin Bieber. Romany Malco and Fat Joe play other night-school classmates. SNL regular Taran Killam is autocratic high-school Principal Stewart with whom Teddy has a long and unhappy history.
“Night School” begins like a romantic comedy when, in their cars, Teddy and Carrie meet cute at a city intersection and he hears Carrie’s outrageous conversation with her mother. But this is a straight-up comedy, directed by Malcolm D. Lee, from a loosey-goosey script produced by six writers — including Kevin Hart. There’s no romance between Hart and Haddish, although they are characters we want to like. Unhappily, this mess of a movie — especially the haphazard script – gets in the way.
Rated PG-13 for pervasive crude and sexual content, language, drugs and violence, “Night School” runs a long 111 minutes. Definitely not for kids — or adults like me. I never laughed once.
Here’s a new classroom rule:
Don’t go to “Night School” —
Kevin Hart’s not much fun;
No laughs — not even one.