Night School is further proof that Kevin Hart is at his best when he's part of a genuine comedy/action duo or within an ensemble cast of colorful characters. A rote by the numbers comedy plot that doesn't really go anywhere allows him to be funny at times, but genuine scripted material shortfalls allow for too much shtick that grinds the film and the laughs to a grating dead stop. It may not be the funniest movie ever but Universal Studios takes the 4K UHD Blu-ray back to school and graduates with a stellar 4K HDR transfer complete with an active and effective DTS:X mix and a decent assortment of bonus features. For an average Kevin Hart movie, it's not terrible and there are enough genuine laughs to make it Worth A Look.
"…it's gonna be a long semester."
Kevin Hart keeps to his comedy routine as the fast-talking diminutive Teddy Walker. Teddy is a successful Barbecue grill salesman who lives way, way beyond his means and is madly in love with his girlfriend Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke) who is way out of his league. Lisa doesn't know that Teddy never graduated high school and is actually up to his eyeballs in debt. After proposing to her, Teddy accidentally blows up the grill store he was set to inherit from the owner. Now in order to get a job at his pal Marvin's (Ben Schwartz) financial management firm, he's got to secretly go back to high school to get his GED. The only problem his old bully Stewart (Taran Killam) is the principal and his teacher Carrie (Tiffany Haddish) isn't going to let him slide on his heaps of charm.
I don't mind average uncomplicated comedies. The plot doesn't have to be the most clever thing in order for me to be entertained. The great 80s comedies got by with a simple premise, charmingly talented leads, and smart well-timed scripts. It's the last element that eludes Night School. You can tell when the movie is on point and the joke was actually written and tested - because it's hilarious. Because those moments are so damn funny - like when Teddy blows up his store is flung through the air in a fireball and smashes into his Porsche, it's actually damn funny. When he tries to get out of his expensive restaurant bill by ripping out pubic hair and sprinkling them on the dessert and then arguing with the waiter - the funny doesn't happen.
That's pretty much the pattern through the run of Night School. After some fun work on Girls Trip, The Best Man's Holiday, and my fond memories of Undercover Brother, I was a little excited to see what director Malcolm D. Lee could cook up with Kevin Hart in the lead. While most of the film is decent, it's the film's over-reliance on motor-mouthed shtick from Hart and the rest of the cast including Haddish, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Romany Malco, and Rob Riggle that brings the film and the humor to a complete dead stop. I know you've got to try multiple takes and jokes and allow your cast to work the material a bit, but everything is routine for these actors. If you've seen Malco, Riggle, or Rajskub do their standard bits in other movies or shows, you've pretty much seen everything they brought to Night School. Their characters' need for attending night school doesn't influence the comedy in the least and it's a shame because it's a missed opportunity for genuine heartfelt laughs.
The film is at its best when it's actually exploring the personal nature of having to go back to school. It's awkward and maybe a bit embarrassing to have to go down that path. To be successful with a vision forward and then suddenly having to work at a Biblically-themed fried chicken shop to make ends meet while going to school is funny but also relatable. When the film is being honest with itself is when it's genuinely funny. When it's trying to pad out the runtime with a barrage of lame jokes involving poop, pubes, or other bodily substances with motor-mouthed improv shtick, Night School loses ground and fails to make the grade.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K UHD Blu-ray
Night School graduates to 4K thanks to Universal Studios in a two-disc 4K UHD Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital set. The discs are housed in a standard two-disc eco-friendly black case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options. The included digital copy is Movies Anywhere compatible and redeems in 4K on VUDU.
Night School makes the most of the advanced education offered by 4K UHD with HDR10. As the transfer is sourced from a 2K DI, there isn't exactly leaps and bounds in detail levels beyond the small refinements. The biggest thing I was able to notice over the standard Blu-ray was Kevin Hart's hairstyling from when he's playing his older and younger selves. Sweat and other micro facial features also get a nice detail uptick.
The smartly applied and not overworked HDR10 pass gives the colors, black levels, and contrast a sizable improvement. However, they also highlight the effects in a somewhat undesirable way. Colors - especially primaries like blues and reds are given a lot of extra punch. When Teddy proposes to Lisa, yellows get a nice push with all of the flames in the grills going - there is a lovely natural golden flickering effect to the lighting. But in that very next scene when the big ball of fire shoots Teddy out of the store, you can tell that actress Megalyn Echikunwoke is standing in front of a green screen and just layered into the shot.
You can spot this sort of effect throughout the film as depth suddenly flattens and the background isn't as sharp or detailed as the adjoining footage. This is really only a small quibble as these scenes are so brief. The banding I experienced in the Blu-ray isn't apparent here. Overall this is a solid 4K UHD presentation that doesn't disappoint, even if it may not offer a huge improvement over it's standard Blu-ray sibling.
For a routine comedy, Night School actually gets a lot of mileage out of its English DTS:X audio mix. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout allowing every joke and auditory gag to come through with great clarity - even if they're not always funny. Sound effects are solid giving the mix a lot of surround activity. The big explosion in the grill store is a great highlight where there is plenty of surrounds and vertical activity. Another great moment is when Teddy and his fellow delinquent students try to sneak into the high school to steal the midterm exam. The scene is quiet allowing for the dialogue and small subtle sound effects to fill the big empty hallways making the auditory gags work that much better. The score by David Newman is typical modern comedy stuff, but it does a great job of filling out the mix. Levels are spot on without need of monitoring or adjustment. Since most of the jokes are dialogue driven - for better or worse - this mix keeps up and does the film justice.
Night School comes packed with a decent assortment of bonus features complete with Director's Audio Commentary and a gag reel material as well as some deleted scenes. Given the amount of unfunny improv comedy, I actually would have rather had these deleted bits included in the film even if it all it would have been was replacement filler.
Audio Commentary featuring director Malcolm D. Lee
Alternate Opening (HD 6:29)
Deleted Scenes (HD 13:27)
Night School's in Session! (HD 13:33)
Who's the Student? Who's The Teacher? (HD 2:33)
Prom Night Revisited (HD 3:07)
Cap'N Gown 'N Giggles (HD 2:08)
Gag Reel (HD 11:07
Kevin Hart needs a foil, someone he can work off. Like Abbott needed Costello, Hart is funniest when he's got someone to play off and he's missing that in Night School. When the comedy well runs dry it relies too heavily on unscripted improv shtick that becomes tiresome and stalls out any comedic momentum. There are some good laughs here and there, but not enough to sustain either cut of the film. Night School passes its advanced placement courses on 4K UHD Blu-ray with flying colors. While details aren't vastly improved, the HDR10 grading offers up a notable uptick in vivid colors, black levels, and contrast. Enjoying the same DTS:X mix, the 4K UHD offers a stellar presentation. This one is really for the diehard Kevin Hart fans, for the curious, it's at least Worth A Look.