‘Night School’ fails to make the grade

Published Oct 7, 2018 at 9:00am

Both stars Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish are funnier and deserve better projects than “Night School”, a by-the-numbers comedy that fails to take full advantage of its premise.

Comedian Hart is credited as one of the writers for “Night School”, so it’s a little surprising that he didn’t give himself better material.

Hart plays Teddy Walker, a high school dropout who has to go back to night school to earn his G.E.D. to get a better job to impress his successful girlfriend. Haddish plays the night school teacher, and they are joined by a cast of colorful and wacky adult students all trying to earn their diplomas for various reasons.

The usual schtick you expect from Kevin Hart is on full display in “Night School”, with tired jokes about his height and his motormouth. None of the humor particularly clever or all that funny, going for the broadest laughs possible across various targets. There’s a running gag about a Christianity-themed fried chicken restaurant where the only joke is how weird it is to pair religion and fast food, as if the movie was too scared to actually use KFC and come up with jokes at their expense.

“Night School” plays it safe at every turn and never gets too deep into its subject material. There’s a subplot about Hart’s character having several learning disabilities, but the movie is definitely not about exploring what life is like with learning disabilities, or how real people cope with such disabilities.

Instead, it’s used as an excuse for Haddish’s teacher character to try some outside-the-box teaching by taking Hart to an MMA-style fighting arena. Her character is never shown to be an MMA fighter. The teaching technique doesn’t seem to accomplish anything. It’s really only an excuse to have Hart’s character making funny noises when he gets punched, because having his character scream and whine about being in pair is one of Hart’s comedic staples.

“Night School” also doesn’t take advantage of what real night school is probably like, instead treating it like a high school do-over. The handful of night school adult students are allowed to both attend and essentially take over both the local high school’s prom and graduation.

Those must be the most relaxed high school teenagers ever, because they have no problem with fully grown adult Kevin Hart, who took one semester of night school classes, upstaging all of them at their graduation ceremony.

“Night School” is content to coast by on Kevin Hart’s weaker material, the movie equivalent of a substitute teacher fumbling through the lesson plan.