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60 Second Verdict: Night School

60 Second Verdict: Night School

60 Second Verdict: Night School

9 October 2018

Comedian Kevin Hart plays Teddy, who is trying to improve his employment prospects in Night School.

By Ben McEachen

In high school, Teddy (Kevin Hart) was one of those popular guys who struggled to get good grades. He didn’t complete his final exams, which comes back to haunt him years later when he struggles to find a high-paying job. Headed towards marrying Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke), Teddy decides to go to night classes so he can graduate from high school and seek better employment – but he doesn’t tell Lisa what he’s doing. 

WHAT’S GOOD
Kevin Hart is an American comedian best known as Dwayne Johnson’s smaller sidekick in Central Intelligence and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. His form of wide-eye, high-pitched comedy is nothing new but he’s mostly inoffensive. While he’s the star of this show, he’s outclassed by his co-stars, notably Tiffany Haddish. She’s sassy, snappy and amusing as the night school teacher – and deserves much funnier projects than this one. Apart from her performance, Night School’s main feature is how mainstream it is. A predictable movie with jokes and characters you’ve seen countless times before, Hart’s comedy is unashamedly aimed at anyone who enjoys a standard comedy that hardly pushes boundaries or creativity.

WHAT’S NOT
If Hart was more of a leading man, he might have owned Night School’s worn-out laughs and life lessons. But his version of shrieking or eye rolling comedy isn’t especially memorable. Much like all of Night School’s elements, from the desperate inclusion of crudity and slapstick violence, to Teddy’s offputting habit of constantly lying to his fiancée. Such a character trait doesn’t inspire warmth towards the guy we’re meant to be following along with, an issue compounded by Night School being more a series of padded-out scenes rather than a full-bore storyline. Even if you are entertained by the humour and high-jinks on show, I think you’ll still struggle to be gripped by how the mediocre melodrama has been cobbled together.

SPIRITUALLY SPEAKING
There’s a weird undercurrent of God stuff running through Night School that I didn’t quite understand, including Teddy getting a part-time job at a Christian chicken take-away franchise. These infrequent references don’t appear to add up to much, except that American society remains more infused with its Christian heritage than our society does. Although I was pretty bored and uninspired throughout Night School, I was jogged out of my half-sleep some times by the unexpected appearance of solid messages about honesty, revenge and forgiveness. But the one-dimensional characters and storylines can’t add up to anything substantial. Instead, we’re supposed to believe that although Teddy has lied his way through the entire film, he’s actually a nice bloke who should get a second chance. Why? Not really sure as Teddy himself barely acknowledges the hurt he’s caused or expresses a significant desire to change his ways. In that light, Teddy is a terrific example of something the Bible reveals over and over again – all of us need the power of God’s forgiveness and love, if we are to overhaul are own shortcomings. Without having such power through Jesus, our efforts at love, forgiveness and changing our ways tend to go the way of Teddy – well-intended but ultimately lacking.
Night School is Rated M and is now showing.
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