Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee
Written by: Kevin Hart, Harry Ratchford, Joey Wells, Matt Kellard, Nicholas Stoller, John Hamburg
Produced by: Will Packer, Kevin Hart
Starring: Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Taran Killam, Romany Malco.
I arrived at the preview of Night School with my tub of popcorn expecting a big, bold American-style comedy and it was that, but it was also something more.
The movie opens with Teddy (Kevin Hart) sparring with his sister over his decision to quit high school rather than face yet another test. Teddy argues that the test is not relevant to African American students; he can’t see the point of, ‘calculating the average number of Manatees in California’.
At the time, leaving school did not seem like such a bad idea. A few years later and Teddy is selling barbeques so successfully that his boss offers to hand over the business to him when he retires. Teddy seems to have it all: a drop-dead-gorgeous girlfriend, a luxury sports car and a secure, well-paid future. That is, until he accidentally blows up Barbeque City.
Despite an unparalleled talent for hustling, Teddy is looking at a long term future on the side of a highway wearing a chicken suit unless he returns to school. Unluckily for Teddy, the boy he publicly humiliated when they were students (Taran Killam) now runs the school, striding down the corridors with a baseball bat and a horrible case of ‘black-talking’, and the woman teaching the night class (Tiffany Haddish) turns out to be the complete stranger who dissed him out at the traffic lights earlier on. Even the text book is terrifyingly huge, and definitely not the mere ‘leaflet’ Teddy was hoping for.
If this isn’t enough, he discovers that he has a cocktail of learning difficulties including: dyslexia, dyscalculia and a processing disorder. Not that it wins Teddy any sympathy with his smart and fiercely dedicated teacher. She quips that he is ‘clinically dumb’ before launching a unique hands on special-ed program designed to unencumber his ‘neural pathways’.
All of this might turn others to a life of crime (has turned one class member), but Teddy still has his beautiful fiancé, Lisa, to live up to. Believing that she is out of his league, he has convinced her that he’s working for his best friend as an investment adviser, but he must first qualify for his GED if he is to make this true.
Usually, when I see a movie for the first time I experience the score in a direct, visceral way, and it takes deliberate effort to tune in to the sound more consciously. In this instance I did manage to wrench myself out of the action and I was impressed not only by the cleverness of the soundtrack, but the unpredictable ways it enhanced the comedy.
It wasn’t until final scenes that I realised that the Night School had been made with a genuine sense of conviction, and with much stealth, guile and cunning I had been drawn into a view of education as more important than any obstacle, however enormous. Yet the achievement of this movie is that there was not the slightest feeling of being lectured to. Well, maybe a tiny bit in the final joke littered speech. By then the entire cast has experienced their own brand of growth. Even the principal has shed his ‘black talking’ sneer.
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