Review – It Hartly Gets A Passing Grade (“Night School”)

Seriously, is there any movie today that doesn’t have Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Melissa McCarthy, or Tiffany Haddish in it? In any case, this is a perfect example of how NOT to make a movie; with terrible editing, bad direction, an awful script, and some of the worst continuity I’ve ever seen. Are you sure this wasn’t the rough cut?

Kevin Hart stars as Kevin Hart doing what he does best; mugging and yelling his way through this contrived, lazy, and overly-clichéd story about a happy-go-lucky kinda guy named Teddy Walker who, despite having a severe learning disability and no high school diploma, makes a decent living selling high-end BBQ’s, driving a beautiful Porsche, and having a gorgeous fiancé (Megalyn Echikunwoke). But after the BBQ place goes BOOM, Teddy must earn his GED in order to get a job at his buddies financial work place. Oh, woe, what to do!? Why, enroll in night school, of course!

But Teddy, going back to his old alma mater, faces some serious hurdles. Stewart, (Taran Killam) the school’s principle, is his old high-school enemy and Carrie (Haddish), the night school teacher, is a real ball-breaker. He also meets his fellow misfit classmates: weirdo Mackenzie (Rob Riggle), sexually-frustrated mom Theresa (Mary Lynn Rajskub), teen hipster Mila (Anna Winters), paranoid Jayden (Romany Malco), fired waiter & aspiring singer Luis (Al Madrigal), and prison inmate via Skype, Bobby (Fat Joe).

Soon the hijinks begin with Teddy having to get a demeaning job at Christian Chicken, a fast-food place, him organizing a late-night Animal House-ish romp stealing a test, and constantly lying to his fiancé about going to night school. All the while Teddy plays the wild ‘n’ wacky card with Carrie, but she only cares about his education, not his clowning around. Just like in The Breakfast Club & Summer School, this group of numbskulls finally band together and decide to learn instead of goofing off. Will they pass their GED? Will Teddy pass his exam and win back the girl of his dreams after she (naturally) dumps him in Act Two? And why is Haddish noticeably falling asleep during the commencement speeches? Odd.

With SIX screenwriters (!!!), including Hart himself, this movie never stood a chance. First off, somebody fire editor Paul Millsbaugh for his flagrant misuse of the editing program. Hey, Paul, just because you CAN use a editor, doesn’t mean you SHOULD! In one simple scene alone I counted about 15 edits… for no reason!! Then there was the hilariously bad continuity (watch the cheesecake in the restaurant scene!) and the amateur direction by Malcolm D. Lee (Scary Movie 5, Girls Trip) which was second-rate. What the hell happened, people? Did anyone even WATCH the dailies? Did the studio bother to screen a finished film for themselves before distribution?

The story alone is recycled from a dozen other movies and the plot holes abound. With six writers, the script is all over all the place with only the occasional laugh here and there. The actors try WAY too hard to milk their lines (many repeat their ‘catch phrase’ over and over again as if THAT will get a laugh). Hart just does Hart and once in a while lands a good comedic jab, but Haddish has the good sense to be on-point and turn in a dynamic performance of a teacher who really cares about her students… when she can’t resist hamming it up herself. Oy!

Billy Madison (1995)

Adam Sadler. The name alone strikes fear in the hearts of many. Love him or hate him, he cranks out movie after movie that lately have only been shown on Netflix. True, the man has made some decent films (50 First Dates, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan) and some true Titanic bombs (Little Nicky, Eight Crazy Nights). This one started it all.

Written by Sadler and his frequent co-writer & SNL alum partner Tim Herlihy, we begin with Sadler’s most iconic character that he uses in most of his movies: the moron. Billy Madison (Sadler) is a 27-year-old goofball idiot and heir to his daddies massive Fortune 500 hotel company. But papa Brian (Darren McGavin) hates his son’s constant drinking, disturbances, acting like a lunatic, and carousing with his two equally loser friends, Frank & Jack (Norm MacDonald & Mark Beltzman). As Brian is about to hand over his company to conniving Eric Gordon (Bradley Whitford), Billy begs his father to reconsider.

Brian gives Billy a second chance; if he completes his school years of 1 through 12 (that’s two weeks per grade!) successfully, and he’ll get the company. As incomprehensible and impossible as that challenge seems (except for a certified genius), Billy goes for it, naturally wreaking havoc in his classes full of little kids. But when he reaches third grade, his gorgeous teacher, Veronica Vaughn (Bridgette Wilson), won’t put up with his reckless behavior… at least for 24 hours when, for some inexplicable reason, she suddenly finds him irresistible and amusing! Huh? Only in the movies, folks, only in the movies!

Anyway, sinister Eric tries to discredited Billy by blackmailing the rotund school principal (Josh Mostel) into saying that Billy bribed him into passing all his elementary school classes. Hearing this, Billy is sick ‘n’ tired of all his hard work (*chuckle*) going down the drain and quits, but feisty Veronica smacks him around and, after a strange pause while they sing & dance a rather silly “Redemption Song”, Billy challenges Eric to an academic decathlon for the company. The ending is just plain WTH and pretty much what you’d expect after seeing the rest of this film.

Critically roasted on a BBQ with a side of waffle fries, this movie actually made bank at the box office and launched Sadler’s career from his SNL days into the limelight as a bonafide star. However, it wasn’t until later with his other films that Sadler found his footing with Happy Gilmore and The Waterboy. In this movie, Sadler is constantly tweaking his character, so that’s why he’s always alternating voices; from his goofy Waterboy voice to his yelling voice to his regular voice. Truth is, he ad-libbed quite a bit of the script which director Tamra Davis (Half Baked) was perfectly okay with.

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