Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish were funnier on last month's MTV Video Music Awards than they get to be in this slapdash comedy

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Nothing comes easy in "Night School," a strained comedy that works overtime just to keep its head above water. 

This is a movie where you can see the pitch and title — Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish in "Night School!" — coming before any semblance of a script. 

That would explain the hoops it has to jump through just to arrive at its basic premise. 

Hart plays Teddy Walker, a high school dropout who now sells BBQ grills in Atlanta. He's set to take over the business when the owner retires, which will put him near the same income bracket as his fiancé Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke). But when he accidentally blows up the BBQ store, he's forced to get his GED so he can become a financial analyst underneath his best friend Marvin (Ben Schwartz).

That's a lot just to get Teddy into school. Once there, he learns the school principal, Stewart (Taran Killam) is a former classmate he used to bully, and the teacher, Carrie (Haddish) is someone he had a run-in with at a stoplight. And one of his fellow students (Al Madrigal) is a former waiter Teddy inadvertently got fired from his job.

Talk about over-complicating matters. From there, "Night School" mainly focuses on the group classroom dynamic; joining Hart and Madrigal are a sheltered stay-at-home mom (Detroit-born Mary Lynn Rajskub), a loudmouth (Romany Malco), a doofus (Rob Riggle) and a convict dialing in via webcam (Fat Joe). 

The overcooked script (credited to Hart and five others) places the group in various harebrained schemes; at one point they perform a heist that drops off without resolution. 

Hart and Haddish are both wildly gifted comedians, but "Night School" doesn't allow them to riff. Put those two in a box and that box immediately becomes funny, but here there's too much standing in the way of them doing their thing. It takes hard work to look this unfocused.

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama 

'Night School'

GRADE: C-

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language, some drug references and violence

Running time: 111 minutes

 

 

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