A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Night School is a racy comedy written and produced by Kevin Hart, who stars alongside Tiffany Haddish. Both are known and loved for their inappropriate humor, which is in full effect here. Viewers may well laugh at the movie's shock-value humor, but it frequently crosses into violence, sexually suggestive comments, and salty language. A married woman comes onto an educator; there are jokes about anal sex (not said explicitly, but implied), pubic hair, prison rape, and more; and characters frequently talk about sex/sex-related topics. Violent scenes (all bloodless) show an explosion, beatings/punches, someone falling from a great height, and more. Frequent strong language includes referring to women and children as "bitches" and black characters using the "N" word (there's also one use of "f--k"). Characters drink champagne, and a teen is caught with Molly. Hart's character works at the fictitious Christian Chicken, where the employee prayer circle is the butt of a joke (lots of other real-world brand names pop up constantly). All of that said, amid the crude humor and stereotypes are messages about second chances, honesty, and character. Also, struggling students should seek testing for learning disabilities, and a good teacher can change a student's life for the better.
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What's the story?
In NIGHT SCHOOL, Teddy Walker (Kevin Hart) is a slick barbeque salesman who's on the brink of a perfect life: He's been promised a life-changing career opportunity, and the girl of his dreams (Megalyn Ann Echikunwoke) has agreed to marry him. But when Teddy's job disappears, he fears his fiancée will, too. He lies to her about having a new job while he sneaks away to a nightly G.E.D. prep class. Getting his G.E.D won't be easy: Teddy clashes with his feisty teacher, Carrie (Tiffany Haddish); his struggles with test-taking still haunt him; and he must contend with his old high school enemy, Stewart (Taran Killam), who's now the school's principal.
Is it any good?
Haddish and Hart are a comedic dream team: Her blunt, oh-no-you-didn't style is the perfect foil for Hart's brand of "let me explain" humor. Their scenes are laugh factories -- the moment Teddy and Carrie meet, the heat is palpable -- but the rest of the film falls flat. The storyline with Teddy's girlfriend is tiresome, and it drains the momentum from Hart's performance. And the script relies on getting laughs from insults, shocking sexual comments, and clichés/stereotypes (including Rob Riggle's muscle-headed dummy, Al Madrigal's Mexican immigrant with a thick accent, and Mary Lynn Rajskub's horny housewife).
The movie's "message" is a bit of a misdirect. It pretends to be about the importance of telling the truth, complete with a somber inspirational score rising under Teddy's big speech, in which he renounces his old ways and advises others that honesty is the best policy. By using that moment on something tried and true, director Malcolm D. Lee is able to slide in the movie's actual takeaway: A struggling student who's labeled as "dumb" might really have a learning difference. Carrie's solutions for helping Teddy are doubtful but can be forgiven, since this is intended as a light comedy. Very few films exist about dyslexia, and Night School may be the first to address dyscalculia and auditory processing disorders. Disguised as a laugh fest with two of Hollywood's hottest comics, Night School cleverly and unexpectedly provides an education on what it's like to have learning differences and how they can be overcome.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Teddy felt intimidated to take tests. How did his family treat him? Were you aware of all of the types of learning differences that Teddy was diagnosed with?
How does Teddy demonstrate perseverance? Is that a consistent character trait, or one he develops only at the end of the movie? How does his perseverance pay off?
How do you feel about all the swearing in the film? Does that make it feel more authentic, or do you think it's unnecessary or distracting?
What do you think is the "lesson" of Night School?
Did you notice any stereotypes in the movie? If so, which ones? Is that OK?
- In theaters: September 28, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: January 1, 2019
- Cast: Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart, Rob Riggle
- Director: Malcolm D. Lee
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: crude and sexual content throughout, language, some drug references and violence
- Last updated: May 6, 2021
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