Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Screenplay: Kevin Hart, Harry Ratchford, Joey Wells, Matt Kellard, Nicholas Stoller, John Hamburg
Starring: Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Rob Riggle, Taran Killam, Romany Malco, Keith David
Runtime: 111 Minutes
The opening production credits of Night School credit HartBeat Productions as a prominent name behind its conception. A bold, gaudily designed logo carrying actor, writer and producer Kevin Hart’s seal of approval. The memory it immediately summons up is the haunting phantom of Happy Madison Productions, Adam Sandler’s film and production company – and shares rather unfortunately with it the same disgruntling level of quality.
Night School might not be the worst film of 2018 technically speaking, but it does stand as the most vicious endurance test parading as a crowd-pleasing mainstream comedy to be placed into cinemas this year. Following a group of adults who set out to earn their GEDs, with Kevin Hart playing his stock type underachiever role in Teddy Walker, and Tiffany Haddish as teacher Carrie.
It’s a decent premise with a strong enough cast of black faces under the direction of black filmmaker Malcolm D. Lee, who also delivered last years surprisingly good Girls Trip that was the breakout for Haddish, but it’s utterly misused by a staggeringly unfunny and unimaginative screenplay by no less than six credited writers.
Hart can be funny when put in the right material, as can Haddish – who is probably the only one registering with any onscreen personality – but she is sidelined for the obnoxious cast of woefully wronged cast of otherwise funny actors, with characters who just seem to exist to fill up space and time with agonisingly stiff stock characters complete with catchphrases.
What’s worse is Lee’s limp direction, taking a backseat to the cast who are just allowed to improvise and stretch-out every scene beyond breaking point with weak and endless jokes that stretch-out a thin plot over its obscene 111-minute length. Any opportunity for commentary or satire as present in some of his other work exemplifying black characters and backgrounds falls flat, including an entire subplot involving a Christian chicken joint that goes nowhere.
Night School is about as entertaining as having extensive dental surgery, but even that would offer the relief of nitrous oxide to subdue the pain. This offers nothing in the way of laughs or comfort.