If it had been made in the 80s, Night School could’ve been one of those minor classics people still drunkenly quote at parties. I picture a John Candy/Matthew Broderick dynamic, for some reason. Unfortunately, the days of John Hughes and Harold Ramis have long passed, and the formula for Night School is just as stale and spent as you would imagine. This is a tired movie, made by tired people.
Our story sputters into motion when ne’er-do-well Teddy (Kevin Hart) bails on his placement tests and drops out of school. (Did I actually just type “ne’er-do-well”? Jesus Christ in a bean field. That’s what this movie has reduced me to.) Flash-forward a few years, and it seems Teddy has it all: A beautiful fiancée, a good job selling propane and propane accessories, and a Porsche. The whole façade comes crashing down when Teddy loses his job and has to search for employment without a diploma. Holy shit, gang, I wonder what our plucky hero does next?
If you didn’t catch the sarcasm font there, let me put it this way: You remember those old paint by number kits, with the wheat field and the Dutch windmill? Those are less predictable than this movie. Teddy enrolls in night school but doesn’t tell his fiancée, mainly because the plot requires him to be too stupid to do so. And, gosh darn it, wouldn’t you know? His old high school nemesis is now the dickhead principal!
And so, it’s off to night school for the film’s sizzling second act. Teddy’s classmates are the biggest group of comedy clichés this side of Gilligan’s Island. We get the Blue Collar Jock, the Repressed PTA Mom, the Bitchy Teen Who Literally Can’t Even I Mean Seriously You Guys and, um……the Disgraced Middle-Aged Waiter Who Wants to Be a Pop Star? Then there’s the Inspiring Teacher (Tiffany Haddish, providing the only spark in the whole damn movie), whose unvarnished sass is required to kick these disparate goofballs into gear.
If you can’t suss out what happens next, maybe movies aren’t for you. (I kinda want to get back into paint by numbers, actually.) I won’t say Night School has zero laughs, but I won’t say it has many more than that. Kevin Hart mugs non-stop, like a frantic man trying to work his way out of quicksand. He sinks, and the movie sinks with him. Do yourself a favor and seek out Ferris Bueller or Stripes and see how this kinda thing used to be done.