In this scattershot subpar comedy, Kevin Hart stars as a motormouthed egotistical cuss who enrolls in night school to get his GED and improve his job prospects. Tiffany Haddish plays his tart-tongued teacher. Rating: 1.5 stars out of 4.
There’s a clash between brass and sass going on in “Night School.”
The brass is provided by Kevin Hart, playing a motormouthed egotistical cuss (in other words, the usual kind of Kevin Hart character) who winds up having to go to night school after losing his job and finding employment prospects limited for a high-school dropout such as himself. He enrolls in night school to get his GED and, he hopes, make himself more employable.
The sass comes courtesy of Tiffany Haddish in the role of the tart-tongued teacher of the nighttime class in which Hart’s character is enrolled. She has no tolerance for his corner-cutting, self-promoting ways and offers deflating barbs whenever he gets out of line, which is often.
Sparks fly. And sometimes punches. When he can’t get the hang of what she’s teaching, she drags him to a gym for a more physical form of instruction. Which is to say she clobbers and kicks him every time he gives a wrong answer. “Focus!” she yells. Sock! For further incentive, she beats him with a belt.
School of hard knocks is not just an empty phrase in this picture. Learning, it’s hard. Comedy (which “Night School” supposedly is), it’s hard as well. At least when it strains for laughs in such a fashion.
With a supporting cast of comic actors, including a few alums of “Saturday Night Live,” playing Hart’s misfit classmates, and with a list of writers that’s almost as extensive as the contents of a phone book, (Hart himself is on that list), “Night School” plays like a bundle of improv sketches squashed together in a seemingly haphazard fashion. Some are mildly funny, but one, in which Hart’s character uses a disgusting and highly personal ploy to try to skip out of paying the tab at a pricey restaurant, is just plain gross. And it’s stretched out to intolerable length.
Director Malcolm D. Lee, whose previous movie, 2017’s raucous “Girls Trip,” gave Haddish her star-making breakout role, does her no favors here. In this mess of a movie, her performance is merely adequate. She, and the audience, deserve better.
★½“Night School,” with Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Rob Riggle, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Taran Killam. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee, from a screenplay by Hart, Harry Ratchford, Joey Wells, Matthew Kellard, Nicholas Stoller and John Hamburg. 111 minutes. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language, some drug references and violence. Opens Sept. 28 at multiple theaters.