Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish lead a great cast in “Night School,” a light, funny comedy.
Flashback to Atlanta 2001, Teddy (Hart) is struggling with studying for the Georgia State Achievement Test. Claiming racial bias, he is discredited by his future doctor sister, who has scored a near perfect 1,540, and his father, Gerald (the great and deep voiced Keith David, who I believe at this point should have a cameo role in every Hollywood film).
Against the backdrop of the “Rocky III” film song, “Eye of the Tiger,” young Teddy goes to the high school gym to take the exam. As the words and math problems literally dance off the stage, Teddy gives up in anger.
“You’re all sheep!” he yells at his classmates. “You’re all going to have huge student loans. You look like bad credit risks already. This group reeks of Discover cards.”
Flash forward 17 years later. Teddy is a successful salesman with a huge barbecue store. He can sell a grill to anyone.
“That was a master class,” the owner tells Teddy after he sells a huge grill to a skeptical husband. “I couldn’t get Bobby Flay to buy that barbecue.”
He refers to Teddy as the son he never had, as opposed to the son he has, who has no aptitude for the business.
Promising to turn over the business to Teddy when he retires, Teddy proposes to his girlfriend, Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke), a beautiful successful business woman, in a romantic and elaborate setup at the grill store.
When Teddy causes the store to accidentally blow up, the owner takes the insurance money and retires to Florida, leaving Teddy without a job.
Teddy’s best friend, Marvin (Ben Schwartz) promises to get Teddy a job at his financial firm. “These guys here can sell all day about funds they don’t understand.”
The only catch is that Teddy has to get his high school diploma. Lisa does not know that Teddy never graduated from high school, so he wants to get his GED without her knowing it.
Teddy returns to his old high school, where his old nemesis, Stewart (Taran Killam) is now principal. He lies to Teddy, saying that there is no GED program.
Teddy meets the programs’ teacher, Carrie (Tiffany Haddish), whom he had recently had a shouting match with at a red light. Carrie reluctantly allows him to join the class, which includes a furniture mover who wants to be a manager (Rob Riggle), a frustrated housewife and mother (Mary Lynn Rajskub), a prisoner on video (G.S. Wade II), and a high school student who will go to jail if she doe not graduate (Anne Winters).
A “Stripes” like motley group, the comedy comes from the different people trying to graduate. It is also a story about a teacher believing in a student. Carrie has Teddy tested, learning that he is dyslexic, dyscalculic, and “one beautiful, mixed-drink of learning disability,” and vows to help him.
The film is funny, silly, but also inspiring. Older viewers will remember how “The Fonz” got his high school diploma on “Happy Days.” Haddish shines in this role of passionate teacher.