Exclusive Review: Malcolm D. Lee’s ‘Night School’.

© Universal Pictures

A film which destigmatises learning disabilities.

Malcolm D. Lee’s new comedy Night School is about Teddy (Kevin Hart) who wants to obtain his GED, and attends a night school. There is taught by Carrie (Tiffany Haddish) who takes teaching to a whole new level. Night School features a likeable cast with notable comedians such as Hart and Haddish as well as SNL regulars Tarran Killam and Rob Riggle.

The characters are very relatable; Teddy Walker suffers from many learning disabilities which lowers his self esteem. Carrie, on the other hand, is highly motivated and only wants the best for him. It’s a nostalgic return to youth, especially for those who struggled in their school experiences. Kevin continually finds education difficult and often gives up, much like people who suffer from a learning disability that effects them daily. The film shows the very real implications of these problems with how Teddy just wants to feel a sense of self-worth.

Night School openly deals with a subject matter that is well known, but often under-represented. Many films may tackle the social stigma of the school experience, but few deal with the mental struggles people go through when it comes to learning disabilities, without becoming too heavy, deep, or emotional. The film is pleasing because it alleviates these topics with comedy, making it appealing to younger audience. It destigmatises these disabilities as being some sort of sad disorder, instead normalising them.

Whilst the trailer may imply that Tiffany’s character would be horrible and mean, this is the contrary of the content of the actual picture. I feel however, that this is unimportant because of the lovely friendship that blooms between them; Carrie wanting the best for Teddy and teaching him the beauty of self-confidence. The film also infantilises adults, we see them attending lessons, bullying one-another and all out becoming friends in a very sweet and light plot. It shows that no matter how you are, you’re never too old to learn; you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Night School doesn’t steer away from the blatant stupid humour from characters and physical comedy that Kevin Hart is known for, not that you won’t laugh. It really brings to light how people like Teddy, and the other struggling adults in night class, may really feel.

Therefore, I would rate it much higher than other reviews currently circulating, such as The Guardian newspaper’s Peter Bradshaw, an excerpt of which follows: “All the ingredients for a perfectly reasonable comedy would appear to be in place, but nothing catches fire, basically because Hart really has no one to play off. There is no real tension between Teddy and Lisa – who rather disappears from the movie as the evening-class part of the story progresses – and it isn’t clear if we’re supposed to buy into the idea of a possible romantic tension between Teddy and Carrie.”

3/5 

  • This film is particularly relevant for its treatment of the mental struggles people with learning disabilities face, especially given the fact it was Mental Health Day this week (the 10th).
  • Let’s get talking. Let’s spread awareness and knock down barriers and stigmas. 

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