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dir Malcolm D Lee
prd Kevin Hart, Will Packer
scr Kevin Hart, Harry Ratchford, Joey Wells, Matthew Kellard, Nicholas Stoller, John Hamburg
with Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Taran Killam, Ben Schwartz, Rob Riggle, Al Madrigal, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Romany Malco, Anne Winters, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Keith David, Loretta Devine, Yvonne Orji
release US/UK 28.Sep.18
18/US Universal 1h51
No nonsense: Haddish and Hart
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
A missed opportunity, this comedy never seems able to decide on the best way to exploit the gifts of its stars. They shine in moments, but there's simply no coherent centre to the movie. Director Malcolm D Lee seems to have pointed camera randomly at the actors and hoped for the best. But sloppy editing and an army of writers struggle to save it.
After failing high school, Teddy (Hart) made the most of a deadend job, living above his means. Even his girlfriend Lisa (Echikunwoke) is out of his league. So he decides to take the equivalency exam at his old school, where his nemesis classmate Stewart (Killam) is now principal. Even more challenging is his teacher Carrie (Haddish), who doesn't accept any nonsense from the class of misfits (Riggle, Rajskub, Madrigal, Malco and Winters). Meanwhile, Teddy lies to Lisa about where he is at night, saying he has a new finance job with his best pal (Schwartz).
There are plenty of potential gags here, from the Christian Chicken fast-food shop where Teddy takes a temp job to the mixed martial-arts cage Carrie uses to get Teddy to focus. But the filmmakers only find minimal comedy in the situations, apparently hoping Hart and Haddish would provide more. Indeed, the most amusing moments feel improvised, and thankfully there are a few of these to paper over some diabolically unfunny set-pieces.
As usual, Haddish steals the show, playing it relatively straight while delivering take-no-prisoner one-liners. She's the only character in control of her destiny, and the only one who remains consistent from start to finish. Opposite her, Hart seems like he's trying way too hard to coax a laugh from the audience. When he relaxes, he's genuinely charming and funny, but Teddy is such an unlikeable lout that he's difficult to sympathise with. And the same issue clouds most of the other characters as well.
More problematic is the way the premise is only used as a joke. That these people feel they need high school diplomas in order to sort out their under-employment is simply a given, presented as if it's the answer to all their problems. Yes, this is a comedy, so it doesn't need to grapple with the gritty realities. But just a bit of earthy honesty would have provided a lot more resonant humour than merely laughing at Hart's height. Again and again.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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