‘Night School’ review: Potentially squeaks out passing grade

Malcolm D. Lee’s Night School smartly puts the talents of Tiffany Haddish to her reliable co-star Kevin Hart.

Kevin Hart playing the lead in Night School will surely elicit a fun time filled with cheeky jokes and great laughs. But setting aside the hilarity, the film subtly focuses on broad important issues in education like race and religion bias, the consequences of unaddressed learning disabilities, and the need for sensitive teachers and administrators. Night School is more than just a passing grade.

The movie talks about Teddy (Kevin Hart), a salesman that lives beyond his financial means who inevitably comes to a realization that in life, there are truly no shortcuts. After a series of unfortunate events, including his failed attempt to impress his beautiful, self-sufficient fiancée Lisa (Megalyn Echikunawoke), he decides to finally get his high school G.E.D. There he meets Carrie (Tiffany Haddish), a no-nonsense, hardworking yet underpaid teacher who won’t tolerate any form of slacking or cheating. She may have an unorthodox and unique approach to teaching, but underneath all of it is a big heart for her students.

Teddy’s classmates come from different backgrounds and are likewise impacted by their different life choices. There’s the housewife who believes she’s still blessed despite having ungrateful kids and an overbearing husband. There’s the pretty hipster who’s only attending classes to avoid being sent by her parents to juvenile detention. There’s the wannabe dental hygienist who can’t properly pronounce his profession title. There’s the enlightened, “woke” brother who’s a know-it-all. There’s the prison inmate who studies via Skype. And then, there’s the father who’s at odds with his son and thinks about giving up on school. Night School has a dynamic ensemble to entertain you throughout.

The film lives up to the expectation of being funny but it also has its serious moments which would come handy in real life. It presents the attitude of indifference that many parents have when interacting with other students who learn differently. Teacher Carrie, on the other hand, is not afraid to go the extra mile in getting the best out of her students. She may indulge with excessive cursing and wrestling/choking methods to encourage student participation, but her genuine intentions triumphs over.

Night School is actually a film about second chances. A high school dropout comes back to education in an attempt to make things right, the film telling that it is never late to start over again. Teddy’s emotional speech in the end teems with the humor and life realizations. Director Malcolm D. Lee squeaks out a passing grade by using education as a fun tool that gives plenty of takeaways.

3 out of 5 stars

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee starring Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Rob Riggle, Taran Killam, Romany Malco, Keith David, and Loretta Devine.
Run time: 111 minutes

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