Night School follows a group of misfits forced to attend adult-education classes in hopes of passing the GED exam, but critics say the comedy fails to deliver many laughs.
While the film sheds light on the consequences of bad choices and bad luck, it’s getting low marks for relying too heavily on a “feeble collection of gross-out jokes.”
The Universal Pictures release stars Kevin Hart as a fast-talking barbecue grill salesman. When the store where he works is destroyed by fire, the high school dropout must get a GED to land a new job.
Tiffany Haddish co-stars as the tough but caring night-school teacher who struggles to keep her class in line. Saturday Night Live alum Taran Killam, Romany Malco, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Brooke Butler, Fat Joe and Keith David round out the cast.
With Girls Trip director Malcolm D. Lee helming the film, and two of Hollywood’s hottest comedians leading the cast, you’d think Night School would be one of the funniest comedies around.
But many of the jokes fall flat, at least according to critics.
The comedy has a disappointing 29% Tomatometer rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with 63 of 89 reviews ranking the film as rotten, as of Friday afternoon. The other 26 listed it as fresh.
Among the few reviewers who gave the movie a stamp of approval was James Verniere of the Boston Herald.
“The cast is first-rate, and the laughs keep coming,” Verniere wrote.
Lynnette Nicholas of Black Girl Nerds also liked what she saw.
“Night School is everything that we have come to expect from Hart and Haddish — a fun time, cheeky and sarcastic jokes, and great laughs,” Nicholas said in her review.
Brian Truitt of USA Today thought the movie was “predictable,” but he praised it for “being an unexpectedly empathetic look at learning disabilities.”
Meanwhile, Brian Lowry of CNN.com found little to like, and urged readers to skip the “remedial-level” comedy. After ticking off everything the movie should have had going, including Haddish, Lowry said he was pretty disappointed.
“What emerges, though, feels primarily like a blown-up version of a bad sitcom,” he wrote.
Empire magazine reviewer, Amon Warmann, said he’d like to send the film back to school for a do-over.
“Night School has its moments but is held back by a script that required more study,” Warmann said.
Jake Coyle of The Associated Press also panned the comedy.
“Night School is a straightforward concept that relies too much on the charisma of its performers to carry a weak script,” Coyle wrote. “It didn’t do its homework.”
Night School opened Friday, Sept. 28 and is now playing nationwide.