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"NIGHT SCHOOL"
(2018) (Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: Hoping to keep his fiancée from learning he's been faking his financial status, an unemployed man goes to night school to get his GED.
PLOT:
Nearly two decades after dropping out of high school, Teddy Walker (KEVIN HART) has a good job in sales at a barbeque grill store and a loving girlfriend in Lisa (MEGALYN ECHIKUNWOKE). But his longtime friend from high school, Marvin (BEN SCHWARTZ), is concerned that Teddy is living beyond his means, what with driving an expensive sports car and always picking up the check whenever they're out, all to impress Lisa who's unaware of his faked lifestyle.

When his store is destroyed in an accident, Teddy hopes that Marvin can help him get a job as a financial analyst, but that can't happen without Teddy getting his GED. Never a good student -- due to undiagnosed learning disabilities -- Teddy thinks he can hustle his way into getting that without putting in the work, but two obstacles stand in his way. One is that his former Piedmont High School nemesis, Stewart (TARAN KILLAM), is now the principal there. The other is that the overworked educator who teaches the night school classes, Carrie (TIFFANY HADDISH), will have no part of any such shortcuts.

Accordingly, and while working in a fast food restaurant during the day, Teddy enrolls in the night classes along with a small number of fellow students. There's Mackenzie (ROB RIGGLE) who wants to step up from worker bee to management at a moving company; Jaylen (ROMANY MALCO) who's been replaced by a robot at his last place of work and thus distrusts technology in a paranoid sort of way; and Theresa (MARY LYNN RAJSKUB) a stay-at-home mom who dropped out of high school long ago when she got pregnant. There's also teenager Mila (ANNE WINTERS) who needs a GED to avoid going to jail on drug charges; Bobby (FAT JOE) who attends class via Skype due to being in prison; and former waiter Luis (AL MADRIGAL) who got fired due to Teddy faking a food sanitation issue at the restaurant where he worked.

But once the classes start, Teddy must not only contend with his learning disabilities once again getting the best of him, but also Stewart trying to sabotage his efforts.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
It's always possible that the phrase "stop and smell the roses" was created by a florist with a great knack for marketing. More likely, however, it's one of those old adages based on experience and often coming from those who didn't earlier practice what they now preach.

Yes, people have almost always been in a hurry, but that seems amplified so much more today where nearly everyone is overextending themselves and trying to do and be too many things. In doing so, thoughtful and intelligent planning is sometimes thrown out and the result is that most related experiences don't come out as good, enjoyable or memorable as possible.

All of which leads us to rising movie star Tiffany Haddish. After having her breakout moment in last year's "Girls Trip," she's suddenly everywhere, and will appear in four films in 2018. And in a recent interview, she stated that she wants to make eighty films before she's fifty. Granted, there's some logic with that line of thinking in that one should strike while the iron is still hot, and, sadly, most actresses don't have long shelf lives, so to speak, in Hollywood that's always looking for the next young fresh thing.

Even so, with her turning 39 this coming December, she's going to have to be cranking out a lot of movies each year to hit that number. And with such movie-making rushing, there are going to be films that, well, don't smell as good as roses. Ladies and gentlemen, "Night School" is one of those stinkers that feels like a rush job.

Sporadic, uneven, sophomoric and not particularly funny, it stars Haddish as an overworked educator who must teach night school in order to make ends meet. And it co-stars Kevin Hart as a nearly forty-year-old man who dropped out of high school due to undiagnosed learning disabilities who's been living above his financial means in hopes of impressing his out-of-his-league girlfriend (Megalyn Echikunwoke). So when he loses his job, he must go to said night school to get his GED in order to land a financial analyst job at the firm where his former high school classmate and still best friend (Ben Schwartz) works.

Okay, so there's a smattering of potential there, but the movie world doesn't have a great track record in terms of comedies featuring older people returning to school. Most people will probably think of "Billy Madison," Adam Sandler's awful 1995 movie that featured more than its share of dumb and sophomoric humor.

Alas, this flick -- penned by not one, two or three scribes but rather the sextet of Hart & Harry Ratchford & Joey Wells & Matthew Kellard and Nicholas Stoller and John Hamburg -- feels like the second coming of such secondary education. I'm not above low-brow humor, but that sort of material runs along a very fine line of either being brilliant or awful, and this one keeps heavily leaning toward and eventually falls fully into the latter.

While Hart does his usual hyperactive, motormouth act, Haddish ends up encumbered by those scribes and director Malcolm D. Lee (who previously helmed "Girls Night") who can't figure out or settle on what sort of character she should be. At times, she's of the sassy variety who isn't above forcing her "Oh no you didn't" attitude on her boss, the school principal (Taran Killam) or literally beating an education into Hart's character, MMA style (that also includes her farting in his face). At others, she's a kind and caring teacher who feels like a completely different character. Yes, people (and movie characters) can be multi-dimensional, but her two halves never meld into a satisfying or believable whole.

And then there's the rest of her class that's made up of a hodgepodge of character types one might find in a Sandler flick of old. There's Rob Riggle playing a dimwitted moving company employee and Al Madrigal portraying a waiter who lost his job due to Hart's character extracting some "pubes" from his crotch under the table to place on his desert to get out of a $800-plus restaurant bill. Romany Malco plays a guy who lost his job to a robot and thus is paranoid about related technology when not using terms such as "bottom bitch" to refer to his wife.

Those two characters seem unhinged enough to be dangerous (but not in a particularly funny way) and thus could likely end up serving time with the prisoner character played by Fat Joe who's taking the GED class via Skype when not fending off other inmates.

The ladies are mostly represented by Mary Lynn Rajskub -- as a sexually frustrated but also confused homemaker who's forced to awkwardly come on to the school principal -- who has a long-standing vendetta against Hart's character in a recurring bit that goes nowhere -- during one of the film's dumber moments. Anne Winters is also present as a teen who got caught with some ecstasy in the past and otherwise is given absolutely nothing to do in the film other than sit around, watch all of the inanity around her, and give off the vibe that she'd rather be in most any movie than this one.

Beyond the overall insipidness of the character traits, the material with which all of the performers have been given to work is lame, usually forced, and rarely if ever funny. Yes, I'm sure there will be those who guffaw at some or even all of the so-called laughs, but I'm guessing they do the same with the worst of sitcoms, which is pretty much what this feels like.

In the end, you'll wish that those involved had gone to night school and taken screenwriting and comedy classes to give us something better than this offering that fails far too often and makes one hope Haddish gets pickier in terms of finding projects to fill and finish out her 80 before 50 quota. "Night School" rates as a generous 3 out of 10.




Reviewed September 25, 2018 / Posted September 28, 2018


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