“Night School” begs the question: what has comedy become?

"Night School" movie poster. Photo Credit: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6781982/

Melissa Ellin, Editor in Chief

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On Sept. 28, Kevin Hart’s latest movie, “Night School,” was released in theaters. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a hit. In fact, it was pretty bad. (Seriously, even Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 30 percent.) The only reason it’s gotten so much buzz is because it beat “Smallfoot” in the box office, which can be credited to Hart’s popularity, not the movie’s brilliance.

To be frank, the movie was a disaster. Amusing, yet bad. Hart played a high school dropout, Teddy Walker, who lost his job and had to go to night school in order to get his GED and acquire a new job. This section of the plot was very realistic, but it couldn’t be a comedy (or a Hart movie) with this storyline alone. So, of course, the principal (Taran Killam) at the school Walker took night classes had to be his high school nemesis, Walker had to be engaged to a successful woman oblivious to his situation and all of the students enrolled in night class had to be stereotypes.

I wasn’t even bothered by these plot lines. Nor was I bothered when the night class decided stealing their night school test was the right move. Not that this hasn’t been done in every movie ever or anything… Regardless, I knew what I signed up for, but the stereotype overload was a bit much. Seriously, if you’re ever wondering how to input every stereotype into one movie, ask Hart, because he somehow accomplished this feat with “Night School.” I’ll get more into this later, but first, let’s talk about Hart himself.

In this movie, Hart was classic Hart. He was funny and relatable, but every role he plays is pretty much the same. He’s much like Will Ferrell (“Anchorman”) in that sense, and another thing they have in common is great acting which makes up for this fault. Hart nearly had me crying from laughter many times during the movie.

Walker’s night school teacher, Carrie, (Tiffany Haddish) was an uncompromising African American woman who spent the entire movie being hilarious and trying to help Hart succeed. Carrie was probably my second favorite character because she was well-rounded—she was caring and tough all at the same time. The tough-on-you mentor who’s actually your biggest supporter is a hackneyed movie character, but Haddish managed to put her own spin on the role with her superb execution of jokes. When she called Walker a “burnt leprechaun” I was dead, but the rest of the movie overshadowed her role. If all the characters had been as memorable and unique as Haddish’s, the movie would have been better.

As for the rest of the characters, they were an all around mess. All of the actors played their parts well. It wasn’t their fault the movie had a poorly-written script. The aforementioned nemesis/principal was ridiculous. He ran the school in a way that would get any person in the real world fired. Trust me, if you were allowed to walk around banging a bat on walls just to terrorize students, there would be a lot more studious pupils. And the night school students? This was where a stereotypical movie was taken to a whole new level. There was the dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks (almost literally) jock (Rob Riggle), the angsty house-wife (May Lynn Rajskub), the emo/stoner teen (Anne Winters) and the illegal hispanic immigrant (Al Madrigal). The only two I haven’t mentioned are the ones that didn’t fit a stereotype (at least in the classroom setting). One was the overweight inmate (Fat Joe), and the other was my favorite character, the “woke,” wacky conspiracy theorist (Romany Malco).

Malco’s random and for the most part nonsensical comments were fantastic, Rajskub’s creepy pent up sexual urges made for funny rants and Madrigal’s character, although cliched, was humorful. Music even helped matters somewhat; the songs highlighted the foe drama and accented the comedy. When “Eye of the Tiger” started playing as a teenage Walker entered the testing room for his high school graduation test it was so accurate, but none of this can make up for the disaster that was “Night School.”

Why was it a disaster? Much like “Central Intelligence,” another movie starring Hart, it was entirely impractical. It’s good for a laugh, but I found I was laughing at how awful it was. “Vulture’s” Emily Yoshida dubbed it as “dumb fun with an admirable agenda,” but this was largely due to the non Hollywood ending, which only came, at well, the end of the movie. So you have to sit through over an hour of jokes that are majorly racist and most of the time sexually charged, which is funny for a while, but quickly becomes extra. The jokes had me laughing, but not because they were good. They were cringy, and I wasn’t sure what else to do. It was like watching someone walk into a glass door over and over and over again.

Additionally, my favorite part of the movie was when Walker got a job at Christian Chicken, a fast food chicken joint full of religious nuts, because he needed an in-between job. I didn’t like this part because of its ridiculousness, don’t get me wrong, it was ridiculous, but I loved it because a woman in the theater whisper yelled to her friend “It’s Chick-Fil-A!” When the funniest part of a comedy is someone’s comment, it really makes you wonder just what comedy has become.

As Malco’s character repeatedly said: “That’s what’s up.”

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