Kevin Hart is an extremely likable guy. The first movie I remember seeing him in was my favourite film from the Scary Movie franchise – Scary Movie 3. Flicking through his IMDB page he has certainly had an interesting career (interesting being the key word – Epic Movie?! You’re better than that Kevin!). He’s not one of those comedians I specifically follow but he’s one who I always enjoy when he happens to be in a comedy that I’m watching. When the opportunity arose to get along to a pre-screening of Night School, a film that Hart not only stars in but is one of the writers of, I was keen to get along with wife by my side for a wee chuckle. And a wee chuckle was had indeed.
In terms of story line Night School is neither groundbreaking nor overly original. After losing his job as a successful salesman, endearing and likable misfit Teddy Walker (Hart) needs to return to high school to get his GED in order to get a job to financially support his “out of his league” fiance. Due to it being a comedy he has been lying about his financial status for their entire relationship and pretending to be a rich douchebag in order to be the man he assumes (incorrectly) she wants him to be. Upon returning to his old high school in order to successfully earn said qualification through the night school programme, he meets a mixed group of oddball adults who are all in similar but different situations. Think The Breakfast Club meets Billy Madison and you pretty much arrive at Night School.
Typical comedic and silly obstacles get in the way of this group of now friends as they try and succeed. All familiar tropes are presented here – from the once bullied kid at high school who is now the Principal right through to a running the hallways not wanting to get caught chase scene. The morality of honesty and the importance of learning are briefly touched on in typical comedy movie style and an unsurprising ending leaves us all feeling warm about the idea of second chances and how everyone can be better if they set their mind to it. It’s fair to say in terms of story line there is absolutely nothing new on offer here other than some not fully developed ideas around the modern educational system and its inability to work for those with learning difficulties – a topic that if had been given more focus could have made for some really interesting commentary. Unfortunately it is not given enough time to blossom into a proper element of the story and is instead just used as a plot device to draw the movie out a bit longer.
The ensemble cast of Night School are utterly fantastic. Special mention to Mary Lynn Rajskub (Brooklyn 99) Romany Malco (Weeds) and Rob Riggle (every comedy movie ever made) for contributing to the strength of said ensemble. The script soars in the scenes that revolve around this group of actors exchanging one liners and insults and the banter between their characters works so well that it is incredibly funny and incredibly engaging when the film focuses solely on the play between these characters. Sadly only one or two scenes gives these actors the room to do this before the film gets lost in ridiculous capers and situations which forces the characterisation to fall second to the sitcom-esque situations they find themselves in. The rare moments where the movie allows these actors to develop their characters more fully and work off one another is where the script truly comes alive and the dialogue is genuine and funny.
Sadly like a lot of comedy movies Night School is far too interested in dragging out the telling of a story we have all heard too many times and spends too long reaching a conclusion we all knew was coming from the second we sat down in the cinema. As a result what could have been a hilarious and tightly written character comedy ends up being a cliched story which is 30 minutes too long and which feels overloaded with unwanted cliches (dance off, anyone?) which ultimately means Night School fails to be something more than a fairly run-of-the-mill comedy movie. When the jokes hit – they hit hard but unfortunately they are so wrapped in tediously forced moralising and comedy cliches that they feel a bit far and few between.
– Ashton Brown