Watching Malcolm D. Lee’s Night School is akin to observing a group of gifted students who refuse to apply themselves. The potential for greatness is there, but it is ultimately wasted due to laziness.
Teddy (Kevin Hart) is a high school drop out that has found a successful career as a BBQ salesman. Driving a fancy car and constantly treating his girlfriend Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke) to expensive meals, Teddy has managed to hide the fact that he is living beyond his means. However, when an engagement proposal mishap results in his store burning down, the wisecracking salesman finds himself in desperate need of a job.
Realizing that he requires a GED to make any sort of adequate income to keep him in the lifestyle he is accustomed to, Teddy decides to enroll in the night school program at his former high school. Expecting to smooth talk his way into getting a quick diploma, Teddy’s plans are thrown for a loop when he discovers that his old nemesis Stewart (Taran Killam) is now the school principle and his new teacher, Carrie (Tiffany Haddish), cannot be bought. Stuck in a class with a motley crew of students – Mackenzie (Rob Riggle), Theresa (Mary Lynn Rajskub), Luis (Al Madrigal), Jaylen (Romany Malco), Mila (Anne Winters) and the incarcerated Bobby (Fat Joe) – Teddy must learn the hard way that there are no shortcuts when it comes to education.
Night School had all the ingredients to be a sharp throwback to 80s comedies like Back to School, but it ultimately missed the mark. While there are positive messages about the importance of an education, the script never seems to figure out how to maximize the talented cast that Lee assembles. Most of Teddy’s classmates are reduced to one-note characters who we barely get to know in any meaningful way. As a result, their personal conflicts are treated in a blink and you’ll miss it fashion.
The film’s greatest misstep, however, is not giving Tiffany Haddish much to work with. Her comedic talents are wasted by being relegated to the straight-laced role. In some ways, the film would have been far more humorous and interesting had Haddish and Hart’s roles been flipped. As is evident in brief moments, take the gym scenes for example, Haddish is more than capable of generating big laughs when allowed to indulge in the same level of antics as Hart.
The bonus features on the Blu-ray, which arrives in stores today courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, further emphasizes what could have been. The “Who’s the Student? Who’s the Teacher?” and “Prom Night Revisited” featurettes highlight the chemistry and friendship that Hart and Haddish have. Not surprisingly the “Gag Reel” offers the most laughs as each comedian effortlessly display their improvisational abilities.
Unlike Hart’s other high-concept comedies, there is simply not enough laughs or character development to give Night School a passing grade.
Extended Version; Alternate Opening; Deleted Scenes; Gag Reel; Night School’s in Session!; Who’s the Student? Who’s the Teacher; Prom Night Revisited; Cap ‘N Gown ‘N Giggles; Making of the Dance; Christian Chicken; Game Over; Extended Performance “El Sueno”; Director Commentary