Tiffany Haddish is an all-star. She’s relatable with a pinch of quirk, down to earth and funny as heck. In other words, everyone would’ve killed to have Haddish as their best friend in high school.
It seems as if “Night School” should have been a shoo-in for success. After all, the film reunites Haddish with director Malcolm D. Lee (who also spearheaded “Girls Trip,” the seminal film that slammed Haddish onto the map) and features a distinguished cast of seasoned comedians including Rob Riggle, Yvonne Orji, Ben Schwartz and Taran Killam. If worse comes to worst, it’ll be funny, right?
“Night School” is bad — unwatchably so. Even Haddish, who can turn a grapefruit into a tool of endless humor, can’t save this half-hearted attempt at filmmaking. She tries, tries again and goddamn it even gives it a third shot. But every chuckle Haddish elicits from the audience is closely followed by a groan due to the film’s nonsensical pacing, awkward editing and uncoordinated “star,” Kevin Hart.
Hart plays Teddy Walker, a high school dropout who, 17 years later, is one of the best barbecue grill salesman in the greater Atlanta region. But after a roundabout and literally fiery proposal to his wealthy designer girlfriend Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke), Teddy accidentally burns down the barbecue store, losing his job, his dignity and the possibility of a promotion. Luckily, though, his high school buddy Marvin (Ben Schwartz) swoops in with a sweet position at his investment firm that is available to Teddy under one condition: He gets his GED.
So Teddy goes back to his old high school to ask for his diploma. However, both principal Stewart (Taran Killam), Teddy’s old high school nemesis who may or may not have one too many nipples, and Carrie (Tiffany Haddish), an overworked math teacher, refuse to grant him his wish and instead send him to night school. While Stewart’s resentment comes from a decades-long grudge, Carrie’s aggression toward Teddy sprouts from a good-natured belief in hard work and resilience.
Thus, “Night School” really kicks off. As class starts, Teddy meets the rest of his night school peers: Jaylen (Romany Malco), a paranoid soothsayer whose non sequiturs provide the film some of its only laughs; Mackenzie (Rob Riggle), a dumb dad; Theresa (Mary Lynn Rajskub), a stay-at-home mom with more than a little pent-up sexual energy; Mila (Anne Winters), a wealthy dropout who’s only there because her parents forced her to be; Luis (Al Madrigal), a middle-aged waiter with dreams of being the next Justin Bieber; and Bobby (Fat Joe), a prison inmate who might just be the smartest one in the class.
They’re a ragtag bunch and have the potential to be an older, funnier “breakfast club.” Yet Hart and the other writers keep these characters only thinly sketched. They aren’t people but stereotypes, and they remain such throughout the film –– window-dressing for Teddy to play off of.
As the plot progresses, it becomes difficult to track anything that’s going on. There’s a 30-minute heist here, a subplot involving a Christian-themed chicken joint there, and oh, way, way over there is a surprisingly mature plot point involving the failure of our education system as it pertains to kids with disabilities.
These plots are all dropped almost as quickly as they are introduced. In the world of “Night School,” you can steal the final exam, face the consequences for about a minute and a half and then forget it ever happened.
After you walk out of the theater, it’ll probably be hard to remember anything at all about “Night School.” The jokes weren’t funny enough, the characters were poorly written and the abundance of unfulfilled plot points weren’t at all memorable. In other words, the worst part of “Night School” is that it was just so bland.
You would think, if anything, “Night School” would understand that a boring teacher is a bad one.
Contact Nils Jepson at [email protected].