Night School (2018)

“The issue is you’re clinically dumb.”

Night School doesn’t fail because it ever lacks for effort, but more so because it exerts that effort in all of the wrong places. This is a misguided, unjustly overlong film that’s remedial in its comedic aspirations, and the movie itself brings absolutely nothing new or surprising to the table. It’s a little ironic that a story so heavily focused on the importance of second chances wears out its welcome from the get go, and that the entire picture disproves the surface-level sentiment it tries to swindle us with. Night School tells us that second chances are earned and not given, making it all the more disappointing to watch such a story unfold that hardly practices what it preaches.

We first meet Teddy Walker (Kevin Hart in his typically loud, overbearing role) as a high school senior. It’s not that Teddy is outright unintelligent; he’s just an unenthusiastic student and a bad test taker. Then we flash-forward a preposterous 17 years and the drop out is a hardworking, successful BBQ salesman living above the line of his average income, offering his credit card to pay an expensive meal when it’s beyond his means. He loves his girlfriend Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke), the breadwinner in the couple, and their relationship is built around Teddy’s extensive, compensatory lies. It’s all too appropriate that his eventual engagement proposal goes up in literal flames.

Teddy tries so hard that he ruins the prospects of his future, forced to finish school and finally get his GED after his friend Marvin (Ben Schwartz) promises him a finance job. Back to school he goes, encountering his old foe Stewart (Taran Killam) who now serves as the principal and a no-nonsense teacher in Carrie (Tiffany Haddish, better here than the movie deserves her to be). Night School is a rehash of older films and more mature performances, like if this year’s Life of the Party had been led by Rodney Dangerfield’s dirty rotten scoundrel in Back to School, and it’s tied to The Principal and Lean on Me in ways that are both obvious and clearly undeserved. Malcolm D. Lee is a reliable, good director, but save for the funny turns from a bunch of collective cast outs in the supporting unit, Night School just isn’t a good movie.

Too many scenes drag. The improvisation is rarely witty or clever, resorting to noises and scrunched faces instead of inspired retorts. The script undermines any semblance of honest emotions by going for gross schlock rather than observed, restrained moments of clarity. Night School talks too much, thinks too little, and for that matter is the worst kind of student in the game of life. You can’t teach someone who’s unwilling to listen, and by that measure the film happily resides in a place where ignorance equals bliss. Stupid is as stupid does. Billy Madison this is not.

“It’s a lot. It’s so much. It’s so, so much.”

Rating: 2 out of 5

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