By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Five Beers) –
Teddy Walker (Kevin Hart) is a semi-successful gas grill salesman, winning employee of the month over and over again at the BBQ Grill store where he works. Teddy never finished high school, and he’s squandered most of his money on a swanky car and duplex apartment to impress his girlfriend Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke), a successful corporate businesswoman. Teddy has been lying to her for years, never telling her about his lack of education. And when he inadvertently blows the grill store up while proposing to her, he is left without work. Desperate to keep up the facade, he enrolls in Night School to practice for his G.E.D. All the students in the class are in similarly desperate situations. And Carrie, a tough as nails teacher (Tiffany Hadish), struggles to turn this group of misfits into a group of people who are able to pass a standardized test.
YEAH! We technically fulfilled the state’s high school graduation requirements!
To the film’s credit, a handful of jokes do work, such as a job interview scene where Teddy replies to a want ad for a Christian-themed fried chicken restaurant. Another good recurring gag involves the one Night School student who is incarcerated and reporting to class via streaming video. And the Principal character has a good comic bit where he slips into a “black voice”, but denies that it is happening. Too bad that’s about all we get in a movie that pushes the 2 hour mark.
The movie has a total of six credited screenwriters, and it shows. The writing is all over the place, sometimes feeling stale and pedestrian, sometimes slipping into surprisingly clever wordplay, then going to a fart joke. I am not sure whether the fault is in the film’s actual written script, or whether or not there was even a script at all. So much of the dialogue feels made up on the spot.
Kevin Hart’s performance is him at his most stereotypically “Kevin Hart”. Much of the film consists of Teddy’s character whining because he isn’t getting what he wants, or that he’s suffering an indignity. When the only character trait you have in your comic persona is whining, it becomes grating fast.
The cast of supporting characters are all solid comedic performers. Rob Riggle, Taran Killam, Tiffany Haddish, Al Madrigal, and others try their best to inject some life into this weak material. This means there is a lot of ad-libbing, which can go either way in terms of success. Most of the time, the ad-libs do little other than extend the film’s runtime. And at 111 minutes, this bloated comedy didn’t need that extra fat.
“The Liar Revealed” trope in cinema rears its ugly head yet again. And while this is a plot contrivance that can be done well if properly handled, it is also incredibly overused. The problem in Night School is Teddy has no real reason to lie to his girlfriend, or anyone really. His lies are based entirely on desperation to improve his standing in life. It makes his character very hard to like, or even tolerate.
Night School is overlong, seldom funny, and relies entirely on having empathy for a pathological liar without any redeeming traits.
Night School (2018) Movie Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Teddy lies for no reason
Do a Shot: each time an ad-lib riff goes on way too long
Take a Drink: when the style of humor suddenly changes from one scene to another
Take a Drink: for out of place slapstick