Kevin Hart is a funny comedian but he’s not a funny actor. None of his movies are funny, unless you count his brief appearance in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Top Five and The Five-Year Engagement are funny but Hart wasn’t the lead in either. Hart should stick to stand up because his latest, the uninspired and unoriginal Night School, is further proof that he cannot be funny as the film’s lead.

Hart plays Teddy Walker, a successful grill salesman who happens to lack a high school diploma. He leads a seemingly perfect life, complete with a nice car, a fantastic home and a beautiful and successful girlfriend, Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke). But Teddy ends up losing his job after he accidentally destroys his boss’ business. As a result, he needs to get his GED into order for his friend Marvin (Ben Schwartz) to hook Teddy up with a job at his financial firm. Teddy just got engaged to Lisa, but he’s kept her in the dark about his academic shortcomings (among other things) and thus hilarity is supposed to ensue. And just to make sure there’s more laughs director Malcolm D. Lee added Tiffany Haddish to the cast. And although Haddish was clearly the funniest person in Girls Trip (which Lee also directed), her turn as Teddy’s night school teacher, Carrie, does little to save one of the year’s least funny entries.

Lee hopes for a team effort since Teddy takes night school with a diverse bunch. Theresa (Mary Lynn Rajskub) is a wife and mom who hates her home situation; Mila (Anne Winters) is a high school dropout and criminal who needs a GED to avoid jail time; Mackenzie (Rob Riggle) needs a GED to be earn a promotion; Jaylen (Romany Malco) lost his longtime job – and he’s hell bent on keeping the robots from taking over; Luis (Al Madrigal) is an aspiring singer who was recently fired from his restaurant job – ironically because of Teddy; and Bobby (Fat Joe) is a convict taking the night school through Skype. There are some laughs to be had, thanks to this collective, but it’s fleeting and nothing viewers haven’t seen before.

Another source for potential humor comes from Taran Killan. Killan plays Stewart, a strict high school principal whom Teddy bullied and has a proclivity for using a “black voice.” Stewart likes to hit things with his bat – he even has a poster of Lean On Me hanging in his office. If reading that was cringe worthy, it’s because it is. Killan is as funny as having your arm amputated. That’s saying something because he wasn’t very funny on Saturday Night Live.

One positive to Night School is how Hart (who also co-wrote) and Lee shed light on learning disabilities. They tackles dyslexia and dyscalculia, both of which Teddy has, and Night School is sensitive to that, stressing that one can overcome those and still succeed. From that perspective this film provides a nice message and has heart – more so than laughs.

On top of everything Night School lacks any originality. There’s a subplot in which Teddy gets desperate and convinces his classmates to help steal the midterm. Lee and Hart included it to change tempo and showcase the talents of Night School’s supporting players. But it came off terribly unfunny, not to mention it rips off 2004’s The Perfect Score (which co-starred Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans). If nothing else, this subplot proves that stealing a test only works if it involves high school characters, not adults who’ve proven they’re not much smarter than teenagers.

The only true source of good comes from Haddish. She takes advantage of her rising stardom by injecting some much-needed energy to a surprisingly dull and limp comedy. Carrie is a different version of Haddish’s Dina in Girls Trip - still outspoken and crazy, just toned down and more mature. Haddish may be enough to check out Night School but there’s not much else to see outside of her performance (it’s also telling that her character is more interesting than the film’s lead).

So enroll into Night School at your own risk. At best it’s chuckle-inducing, at worst it’s a snoozer. That’s a terrible thing to say about a comedy, but there’s more excitement watching a snail move from one end of a table to the other. This simply isn’t good and it’s insulting that Hart and Lee believe regurgitating old jokes and themes can result in a good, even competent, comedy.

2 stars out of 5


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