Hart, Haddish film ‘Night School’ does the expected

By Ron Wynn
Nashville Voice

It’s safe to say that the new Kevin Hart/Tiffany Haddish film is pretty much “critic-proof.” By that, I mean the fans of both these comic powerhouses will flock to it and love it, no matter how bad the reviews or what anyone thinks of it.

The fact that it has a predictable plot and isn’t particularly different in style or theme from any of the many other films the two have made separately also won’t matter, and as expected, it has proven the number one film at the box office.

What storyline does exist focuses on high school dropout Teddy Walker (Hart), who’s both irritated and agitated by the lack of opportunities his educational status affords him in 2018.

He’s wasting away selling barbecue grills and being tolerated in a relationship by design executive Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke).

Lisa really tries not to notice (at least publicly) the difference in their status and levels of education, but it finally begins to bother Walker. He decides he needs to go back to school and at least get a GED.

Walker encounters a rather unconventional (to put it mildly) teacher in Haddish, who is light on academics, but heavy on critic-proof philosophy, comic bravado, and thinly veiled insults, though it’s clear she truly values her students and wants them to succeed.

There’s also prickly principal Stuart (Taran Killam), who had run-ins with Walker before. Plus there are assorted other classmates with varying degrees of personality.

“Night School” is little more than a series of barely connected comedic sketches and situations designed to showcase the verbal and improvisational skills of its two stars.

If you’re a fan of either or enjoy predictable storylines with an ending designed to be somewhat inspirational, you’ll find “Night School” to your liking.

But the film and its audience would have been much better served had the studio not gotten greedy and let Lee make a genuine adult film with the requisite dialog, situations and sensibility necessary for an “R” rating.

Instead, because they want the dollars that are far more likely from a PG-13, Lee, producer Will Packer and company softened up a lot of language and settings. That decision ensured a bigger audience but reduced the film’s impact and value.

That doesn’t mean there’s no humor in “Night School.” There are some very funny sequences, and unless you’re someone who hates sophomoric humor or sight gags, it’s impossible not to laugh at some of Hart and Haddish’s lines and expressions.

Both are excellent physical comics, able to execute even the most juvenile scenes and make them somewhat funny, if not always hilarious. It doesn’t surprise me that “Night School” did so well in its opening week.

Both Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish are box office gold at this point in their careers. I just hope down the line both opt for more engaging scripts and films that stretch their talents rather than just spotlight them.

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