Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Jared McMillan // Film Critic
It’s no secret that Kevin Hart is one of, if not the, biggest comedy stars on the planet. He has high likability and his comedy is something that is a dichotomy of sorts, playing off insecurity by way of over-the-top braggadocio. Since 2016, movies that had Kevin Hart in a major role have grossed more than $1 billion. Meanwhile, Tiffany Haddish has been on a roll since her breakthrough role in GIRLS TRIP. In fact, she has three movies coming out in the fall.
So, it was only a matter of time before a project came along for both Hart and Haddish to team up and make audiences laugh. Which brings us to NIGHT SCHOOL, a movie that has a lot of laughs but doesn’t venture out further from its paint-by-the-numbers plot.
Hart plays Teddy Walker, who is introduced to the audience in a prologue to show his shortcomings causing him to drop out of high school, giving his classmates the big kiss-off. 17 years later, Teddy has a great car, a great love, and is a successful BBQ salesman. He is so successful the owner lets him know that he will take over once he retires. However, some unfortunate circumstances have Teddy’s plans blow up in his face (literally), and he’s forced to reevaluate his life.
His best friend, Marvin (Ben Schwartz), will bring him into finance sales if Teddy goes back to get his GED. So, he goes back to his old school and enrolls in the GED course, taught by Carrie (Haddish). As he tries to hustle his way out of it, it becomes apparent that Carrie will not have any of his salesman tactics. Can Teddy be successful in getting his GED, all while hiding this from his fiancée (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and being under the watchful eye of Stewart (Taran Killam), the school’s principal?
NIGHT SCHOOL has a lot of things going for it. Hart and Haddish have a great chemistry that plays more like brother/sister than anything, which is a great move because it relieves the audience’s suspicion that they might become more than friends. Carrie just wants to be a good teacher and learns to look past Teddy’s insecurities to get to the root of his problems. She just gets to be a lot meaner since she is dealing with adults. Haddish definitely makes Carrie more subdued and plays the straight woman to Hart’s outlandish behavior.
The script did have a team of six writers, including Hart and veterans John Hamburg (I LOVE YOU MAN) and Nicholas Stoller (NEIGHBORS), to try and make everything work. So, director Malcolm D. Lee (GIRLS TRIP, BARBERSHOP) does a nice job of highlighting the Night School class to focus on their interactions and get them to create laughs. Their introductions on the first day of class is one of the funniest scenes of the movie. Also, the movie’s settings are kept to a minimum to help raise communication to the audience as well as initiate comradery.
The biggest downside to NIGHT SCHOOL is that plot. The audience will be able to guess each plot point before it happens. It’s understandable that they would want to keep the story simple in order to keep the focus on the characters, but it does come at the expense of a better investment to the movie. It would have been nice to further expand once Carrie discovers why Teddy is so dismissive of learning. Other than that, it’s hard to knock a movie that wants to make people laugh. NIGHT SCHOOL definitely makes the grade there and will probably add to Hart’s and Haddish’s success.
NIGHT SCHOOL opens nationwide today (9/28).