A movie about disgruntled teachers at an underfunded and overcrowded school where bureaucrats have milked the budget within an inch of it’s life might sound like the perfect backdrop for an outlandish slapstick comedy film, ripe with satire, but in today’s reality, it’s just depressing. Fist Fight has an interesting premise, and a platform to say something of merit regarding the American education machine, but instead we get a whole lot of low brow dick jokes and drug references. At one point, we even see an educator slap a student across his face, then threaten to tear off his head and defecate into the remaining orifice. Hilarious!
This insane comedy directed by Richard Keen sees a traditionally snarly Ice Cube as he sneers, scowls, and shouts at various students, scaring the hell out of them. Laced and lampooned with absurd pranks that would see most of these kids arrested, Fist Fight becomes a fantastical barrage of adolescent humor that could have only been dreamed up by the very students that are terrorizing this school. Following Andy Campbell (Charlie Day), a squirrely English teacher at Roosevelt High School. Campbell comes across a menacing no nonsense History teacher, Strickland (Ice Cube) in the teacher’s lounge on the last day of school and helps him navigate the muddy waters of fancy latte machines, only to be met with a grimace. As the day rolls on and the kids run wilder, Strickland asks for Campbell’s assistance which then leads to a standoff that sees Strickland take an axe to students desk. For fear of losing his job, the weasley Campbell sells the patently mentally ill Strickland down the river, which causes Strickland to challenge the much smaller Campbell to an old fashioned fist fight. Hijinks ensue as the Campbell spends the remainder of his day looking for a way out of the brawl, while dealing with a pregnant wife, and unruly students who love to draw penis’s all over the school.
Day does his best, in earnest, and is convincing enough as the wiry English teacher, who almost plays like a slightly more subdued version of his Always Sunny character. Even as the story and the surroundings begin to implode, Day clings to the ledge and holds on for dear life, keeping this film from completely derailing. Campbell is a well developed three dimensional depiction of a putzy teacher and caring father, which adds a little depth to the story and inevitably becomes it’s heart. Ice Cube is Ice Cube. The problem stems from the childish attempts at humor that are reliant on outlandish exchanges and over the top antics, involving drug induced horses and meth head guidance counselors who keep trying to sleep with students. The movie’s biggest downfall, is that it’s just not that funny.
This film is demonstrably stupid in every way. Even the constant stream of radical innuendo is blatantly obtuse, and as subtle as fart in a bathtub, which is coincidentally the type of humor the audience can expect, poop and dick jokes galore. Keen and crew really pour it on thick and it feels like certain characters are literally shoved into scenes and scenarios just try and inject some amusement into an otherwise boring and downright dense asides. Tracey Morgan’s sole purpose in this film is to improv some humor into otherwise unfunny situations and someone needs to explain what the hell Christina Hendricks is doing here. Ice Cube is fine, but his character has absolutely no background. We have no idea why Strickland is so perturbed and so the only logical conclusion is that he is literally, certifiably insane.
The biggest let down of Fist Fight is it’s complacency to be nothing more than a dumb comedy with a kooky premise. The marketing didn’t exactly allude to the belief that there would be any sincerity, but there was a chance for this movie to take advantage of the current academic climate and the the intrinsic demonization of of educators and the system. There was even a second where it seemed like that was the road we were headed, but we were snapped back to reality with more vulgarity and vosipherous. Struggling with identity, it’s clear that this was never destined to be anything more than it is, which is a boorish, vapid, and disingenuous attempt at adolescent humor. This has become the norm for modern R-rated comedies, unable to distinguish the difference between crassness and humor, resulting in a lazy and unsatisfying experience.
2.0/5 Do Better Bro