By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish
dial up the funny in their silly, new comedy “Night School"
and even the film’s supporting cast scores high grades.
Malcolm D. Lee
who directed last year’s hit “Girls Trip”--which catapulted Haddish’s career—is at the helm again here. Lee balances “Night School’s” raunchiness by touching on important topics like overcoming learning disabilities, the importance of education and self-worth.
Hart, who also co-wrote the film, plays Teddy Walker, a fast-talking and convincing barbecue grill salesman.
He’s living far beyond his means, driving a convertible Porsche and kicking it in a swanky apartment. All of this is to impress his rich, fiancée Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke, TV’s “Freedom Fighters: The Ray”).
Why this wealthy and gorgeous woman would choose to date a broke, pint-sized, retail salesman is anyone’s guess. But, then again, maybe Teddy measures up in other ways.
Teddy’s future is looking bright especially when his boss Joe (Tim Ware, “Boy Erased”) informs Teddy that he’s going to leave the company to him because he’s like a son to him. Never mind that Joe has a son, but the kid is kind of a geek.
After a freak accident, his dream of store ownership is literally blown away. Now, Teddy doesn’t have a job and as a high school drop-out with no diploma, the odds aren’t good he’ll land another one to keep up his lavish lifestyle anyway.
Teddy turns to his financial advisor/friend Marvin (Ben Schwartz, TV’s “DuckTales”). Marvin suggests Teddy go to night school and get his GED. If he does, Marvin might be able to get him an entry level job at his firm.
The big rub here is that Teddy needs to keep all this on the down-low so that Lisa won’t find out and see him for who he really is.
Meanwhile, Teddy’s father (a terrific Keith David, TV’s “Greenleaf”) is extremely disappointed that Teddy doesn’t have the drive or smarts like his sister Denise (Bresha Webb, TV’s “Marlon”). He wishes Teddy would get his act together.
When Teddy agrees to enroll in night school at Piedmont High, his alma mater, he thinks he’ll be able to shuck and jive his way through it much like everything else he’s done in life.
His first shock comes when he discovers that his old nemesis, Stewart (a funny Taran Killam, TV’s “Drunk History”) is now the school principal and he still has major beef with Teddy. Teddy is even more intimidated by his teacher Carrie (a very funny Haddish). She’s no pushover and she can’t be charmed and bought by the greasy, fast food tacos Teddy brings her. Carrie loves her job. Although she’s overworked and underpaid, she's also very good at it.
Teddy feels even more out of place among his fellow night school students. They are a “special” bunch. Theresa (Mary Lynn Rajskub, TV “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) is a mother of three who is so stressed from her strained marriage, she enrolled in night school just to get out of the house.
Mackenzie (a crazy Rob Riggle, TV’s “Rob Riggles: Ski Master Academy”) is just a big dummy. Luis (Al Madrigal, TV’s “I’m Dying Up Here”), is an immigrant who had a job at an upscale restaurant until Teddy messed that up too with a slice of cheesecake and his pubic hair. Luis wants to be a pop singer and no, not like Julio or Enrique Iglesias, but rather Justin Bieber.
Then there’s Jaylon (a scene-stealing Romany Malco, TV’s, “A Million Little Things” ). Jaylon has some issues. He says he became “woke" after watching "The Terminator" and believes it’s not just a movie, but prophetic. Oh, and I almost forgot about Bobby (Rapper, Fat Joe). He’s in prison and takes the class via Skype.
The goal of course is for Carrie to get these misfits up to speed to pass the GED exam. There are so many hijinks that come in to play here and they nearly derail all the student’s goals.
Teddy also finds out that after all these years, he’s had dyslexia and dyscalculia and not “learning herpes.”
I did mention that “Night School” was silly, right?
Fortunately, this talented ensemble breathes new life into the formulaic comedy and delivers more than enough hearty laughs to earn “Night School” a solid B.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.
Watch This Trailer For "NIGHT SCHOOL"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), the Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.