Sunday, January 23, 2022

EUR Exclusive! – Malcolm D. Lee’s ‘Night School’: Silly Enough to be Funny?

*The movie ‘Night School’ starring Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish and directed by Malcolm D. Lee, grossed $103 million worldwide.  Do you know why?  It is because it was silly enough to be funny.  I can say that, now that I have seen the movie three times.  I get the appeal.  There are times when I watch a movie, I want to be entertained and I do not want to think too much. This movie was light enough for me to be entertained and I am pretty sure I am not alone, after all, like I said, it grossed $103 million.  Not only was it funny, but the messages of not giving up, having second chances and if at first you don’t succeed, came through loud and clear.

I can admit the first time I saw ‘Night School,’ although I chuckled at some parts, I did not laugh from my gut…and I love to laugh.  However, the more I watched it, the more I laughed.  To be honest, although Kevin and Tiffany had lines that made me chuckle, most of my laughs came from people other than Kevin and Tiffany, like when Fat Joe’s character, a prisoner attending night school via skype, hauled off on prisoners who were preventing him from learning about the pythgorem theory.

night school - tiffany & kevi

‘Night School’ is about a high school dropout name Teddy Walker (Kevin Hart) who goes back to school nearly twenty years later to get his GED, the teacher, Carrie (Tiffany Haddish), who is tasked with getting him to the GED finish line, despite obstacles and the collection of misfit type classmates.  It does not take a genius to figure out that the night school gang will get their GED’s in the end, but there was a lot going on in between points A and Z.

Let’s see …Teddy is a successful bar-b-q grill salesman, that is until he accidentally blows up the place.  Teddy has a successful and well-off girlfriend who does not know he is a high school dropout, living paycheck to paycheck.  Teddy’s teacher Carrie has Teddy tested and learns he has a truckload of learning disabilities.  Someone Teddy bullied in high school is now the Principal of the high school and wants to get back at Teddy and goes a tad too far in the process.  If Teddy can pass the GED he can get a job as a financial analyst, however until then, he is hawking chicken.  His classmates resemble something from the Bad News Bears, Little Giants, Mighty Ducks, Cool Runnings or any other misfits make good movie you can think of.  I liked all those movies too.

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night school - malcolm d. lee

Night School’s director, Malcolm D. Lee, has been directing movies for twenty years, beginning with one of my favorites, ‘The Best Man,’ which was produced by his cousin Spike Lee.  Since then, he has gone on to direct ten films and become one of the highest grossing black directors in Hollywood.  I had a telephone interview with Mr.  Lee and we discussed working with Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, what he’s learned since his early days of directing, what’s going on with the next Best Man installment and what’s next, overall,  for Malcolm D. Lee.

According to Lee, making Night School was, “tough, because we were rewriting the script as we were prepping the movie and that is never easy and always a challenge.”  Well then I guess it is a good thing that he had Tiffany and Kevin to work with him, both of whom he gave high marks.  I have wondered how it is working with various actors and about some of the horror stories you hear and read about.  Fear not Tiffany and Kevin fans, Malcolm does not have a horror stories about them and enjoyed working with both Kevin and Tiffany, saying about Tiffany, “she is always positive and a pleasure to work with.”  Considering Night School was his second go around with Tiffany, I believe him.

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night school - posterlogo

night school - male cast

night school - cast

Kevin Hart and Malcolm D. Lee had never worked together; however, if the praise Malcolm gave Kevin is any indication, they will be pairing up again.  According to Lee, Kevin is a “consummate professional and works extremely hard.”  He went on to say, “he’s really funny.  He’s the kind of guy that can help you on set.”  Malcolm recounted a conversation he had with comedian Chris Rock, who told him to get someone who would be able to help him.  Although he admitted he did not know what Chris meant at the time, he does now and Kevin Hart is that guy.  According to Malcolm, “If something is not working, the rhythm is off or something like that, he can energize a scene in a way the good ones can really do and help you on set.”  That’s high praise from someone who directed nine movies and a ton of actors prior to connecting with Kevin Hart.  There are talks of an “Uptown Saturday Night” remake starring Kevin Hart, with Malcolm D. Lee directing, so if everything lines up, they may be paired again sooner rather than later.

Malcolm D. Lee and his production company Blackmaled Productions have a myriad of projects on their plate and I for one cannot wait to see what is next for the super director.  Since I am a fan of the Best Man series, I had to ask what is going on with Best Man Wedding, which was scheduled to be released in 2017.   According to Mr. Lee, everyone is working and it is hard for schedules to line up to make the movie, but there are still plans to make it.  I am keeping hope alive.   Whatever he chooses to do next, in light of the fact that Malcolm D. Lee’s last two projects (‘Night School’ and ‘Girls Trip’) grossed a combined $218 million, this underrated director will continue to make his mark.  I see why he made IMDB’s list of the Top 10 Highest Grossing Black Directors…and that was before Night School and Girl’s Trip were even made.

marilyn smith
Marilyn Smith

Marilyn Smith is a Los Angeles based writer/reviewer.  Contact her via [email protected].

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