The hardest working comedian in Hollywood is back! While that is completely subjective, it’s hard to dispute with Kevin Hart. He is everywhere, all the time. On top of his movies he tours his stand up, has a heavy social media presence, is sponsored by Nike, started a comedy network and has a production company. That work ethic is a huge part of Hart’s success. Not only is he the hardest working comedian, he’s also the most popular. This has been proven time and time again at the box office. In a time when there are very few box office guarantees, Kevin Hart has become one. His movies consistently open at number one at the box office and reap positive returns for the studio. Hart’s success can’t be questioned but what can be questioned is the quality.
As successful as Hart has been, he hasn’t exactly been a critical darling. Most of his films with him in a leading role, have not been received well. This hasn’t stopped people from going to his movies because he is incredibly entertaining. While funny is subjective you’d be hard pressed to find people who don’t find Hart funny at all. The key to Kevin Hart movies is understanding what you are going to get. It probably won’t be the best movie you’ve ever seen but it will be entertaining. That is the perfect way to describe his newest movie Night School. It’s not the best movie you’ll see this year, it’s not even really all that good, but it is entertaining.
Hart plays Teddy Walker, a fast talking hustler that sells grills after dropping out of high school. After a series of rather odd events he loses his job and can’t find a new one because he doesn’t have his GED. His best friend Marvin (Ben Schwartz) is offering him a job but in order to get it the notoriously bad test taker has to enroll in Night School to pass the test. Walker isn’t all that different from basically every other character Hart has played. This is what he’s good at and it provided some funny moments again. He has a very charismatic personality and that charisma helps carry you through the movie. Most of the comedy (that works) is generated from unscripted moments involving Hart. Those are the strongest points in the movie, which is not a shock. Hart is at his best, in all scenarios, when he is improvising. The problem with this is that the whole movie can’t be improvised, so those fun moments were few and far between.
With a movie like Night School the expectations for the screenplay are pretty low. This is a feel good comedy, so there should be some fun set pieces and a few emotional beats. Other than that, the movie just needs to make sense and the screenplay works. Not one of those things were present in this movie. The set pieces were bad, the emotional beats didn’t work and the movie didn’t really make all that much sense. A lot of its shortcomings can be seen in the heist sequence. The students in the class are convinced by Teddy to steal the answers for the test from the principal. Thus we get an overly long sequence of them trying to steal the test. This sequence is important for the movie’s success because these are the types of scenes you came to see. However nothing in this scene makes much sense at all and it makes even less sense for this scene to exist. Up to this point they had only been in a couple of classes, so committing a crime seems like a bit of a leap. Even if you excuse that part of the sequence, it still isn’t fun or funny. Most of the sequence is a series of one-liners ending with a character falling off a building and being thrown up on. This whole sequence could have been cut and the movie would have been better off for it.
Another indication of a poor script is that Night School has a pretty good cast. Tiffany Haddish, Rob Riggle, Romany Malco and Ben Schwartz are all funny actors. None of them were able to really bring anything to the movie because the writing was so bad. Haddish was especially disappointing because she is at the top of the bill. I was interested to see her in a different type of role but unfortunately she was the same character she is in everything else. There wasn’t much that was memorable about her character or her performance. The same is true for the movie as a whole. There aren’t any good memorable moments or any reason to watch the movie again. It follows the exact beats that you would expect and disappoints with childish and cheap humor.
If you are a fan of Kevin Hart or Tiffany Haddish and you want to see them do what they’ve always done, then Night School is the perfect movie for you. Other than that this movie doesn’t offer much. It is exactly the movie it appears to be, which is unfortunate because this cast could have put out a much better movie. Night School just doesn’t come together to make anything worthwhile. Hart describes the movie as really funny with some heart, in actuality it’s a movie that gives a feeble attempt to be the movie he’s describing.
1 1/2 out of 5 stars
Director: Malcolm D. Lee Writers: Kevin Hart, Harry Ratchford, Joey Wells, Matthew Kellard, Nicholas Stoller & John Hamburg Starring: Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Ben Schwartz, Anne Winters, Rob Riggle & Romany Malco Release Date: September 28th Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 1 hour and 51 minutes