“Night School” features a bunch sketches woven together by a threadbare plot that proves to be as predictable as expected.
However, the latter doesn’t matter when those sketches provide blustery laughter. And when you get comedians Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish together, that should be the expectation.
They deliver in their roles as a night school student and his teacher, respectively, but it’s the supporting cast that makes those moments truly worth the time. There exists undeniable chemistry between a group of non-traditional schoolmates that powers the film and takes “Night School” a notch or two above tolerable.
Hart portrays Teddy, a high school dropout, who finds himself in a predicament after the career in sales where he excels literally goes up in a ball of flame. His friend promises him if he goes back to school for his GED he can get him into his firm as a financial analyst.
Back he goes, believing he can get by on the charm he’s used to glide through life until then. He meets his match in his teacher, Carrie (Tiffany Haddish), who warns him she can see right through his game no matter how good he believes it is. It doesn’t help that his former high school nemesis Stewart (Taran Killam) is now the school’s principal, and he’s not above extracting a measure of revenge for past slights.
He assembles with a bunch of other academic misfits trying to better their respective lives by completing what they started. In them, he finds kindred spirits and friends.
He also finds in those classmates Big Mac (Rob Riggle), Jaylen (Romany Malco) and others that screenwriters and director Malcolm D. Lee weave together into a comedic troupe that complements Hart and Haddish’s skills.
A scene where they introduce themselves to one another morphs into something akin to improvisation. A cliché theft scene turns into something altogether different when given enough material with which to work.
Of course, Hart serves as ringmaster for all of this and he mugs for the camera, professes his incredulity on a regular basis, but his strength is his willingness to share the fun with his castmates.
Perhaps that’s a function of having Lee (''Girl Trip'') as director. He’s made a career out of making ensemble films with a comedic bent (''The Best Man'') and giving them something above and beyond. His smartest move might be allowing Haddish, who he worked with in ''Girl Trip,'' be Haddish. She’s possesses off-the-chart zaniness that serves as a spark.
Riggle, a well-known comedian, keeps up, but it’s Malco who steals scenes when his Jaylen, a conspiracy theorist, imparts his views on life.
Six writers receive credits on “Night School.” It shows in the hodge-podge plot. It also runs too long for its own good, but ultimately it wants to do nothing more than entertain. In that respect, it makes the grade.
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