Putting together two comic forces of nature, Tiffany Haddish and Kevin Hart, should reap twice the comic forcefulness, right? Well, mostly. ‚ÄúNight School,‚ÄĚ which believe it or not has many things in common with ‚ÄúTeacher‚Äôs Pet‚ÄĚ (1958), a Doris Day-Clark Gable romantic comedy co-written by the great Fay Kanin, pits Haddish and Hart against one another at first and then makes them comic allies.
Hart is Teddy Walker, an Atlanta barbecue grill salesman engaged above-his-pay-scale to the chic, beautiful and well-educated Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke, ‚ÄúCSI: Miami‚ÄĚ), who is in public relations and whose co-worker and girlfriend Maya (Yvonne Orji, ‚ÄúInsecure‚ÄĚ) disapproves of Teddy. After being promised he will inherit the grill business by its owner, Teddy accidentally blows the place up and turns himself into a very funny version of Wily Coyote as he sails out of the exploding building and lands on the windshield of his unpaid for Porsche. Teddy‚Äôs a fake. He‚Äôs a dropout from high school, where his nemesis was the gloating overachiever Stewart (Taran Killam).
Thirtysomething Teddy has a twin sister (Bresha Webb, ‚ÄúGrey‚Äôs Anatomy‚ÄĚ), who is doing much better than he is. He sometimes lives with his parents, and his judgmental father (a funny Keith David) gets on his case for it. Teddy has the prospect of a job that‚Äôs perfect for his sales skills. But he needs a GED to get it.
What he discovers is that Stewart is now the young, baseball-bat-wielding and occasionally ‚Äúblack voice‚ÄĚ-using principal of their old high school, and his new, no-nonsense, night school teacher Carrie (Haddish) will not tolerate his scamming ways or desire to talk his way into a GED. It‚Äôs her job to beat, literally at times, sense into Teddy, who has learning disabilities, and with her help and his hard work help him overcome them.
Directed by Malcolm D. Lee, who has both another ‚ÄúBest Man‚ÄĚ sequel and a Kenya Barris-¬≠scripted ‚ÄúUptown Saturday Night‚ÄĚ remake with Hart on the way, ‚ÄúNight School‚ÄĚ was scripted by Hart, frequent collaborator Harry Ratchford (‚ÄúBET‚Äôs Comicview‚ÄĚ), Joey Wells (‚ÄúKevin Hart: What Now?‚ÄĚ) and three others, and keeps the funny coming in large part by taking full advantage of the talented supporting cast.
Teddy‚Äôs classmates in the ‚Äúloser‚ÄĚ night school class are former moving man MacKenzie (Rob Riggle), crazy conspiracy theorist Jaylen (Romany Malco, ‚ÄúWeeds‚ÄĚ), unhappy wife and mother Theresa (Mary Lynn Rajskub), former waiter and aspiring dental hygienist Luis (Al Madrigal, ‚ÄúThe Daily Show‚ÄĚ ), spoiled rich girl trying to avoid a jail sentence Mila (Anne Winters) and an actual inmate (Jacob Batalon), who is taking the class using Skype from jail. To keep his head above water, Teddy takes a job at a Christian Chicken fast food place that‚Äôs next door to a strip joint. In one of the film‚Äôs best scenes, class members team up to steal the midterm exam.
Haddish is the female lead, but not the romantic interest, which at times is awkward. But she and Hart work well together, and their comic interplay is so fast, I‚Äôd like to see ‚ÄúNight School‚ÄĚ again. Another of the film‚Äôs best scenes is a dance line at the high school prom, where the cast shows off moves you really have to see to believe.
(‚ÄúNight School‚ÄĚ contains crude humor and redubbed f-bombs to get that PG-13 rating.)