Watch Steve's supplemental video review at the bottom of the article
Within the first ten minutes of the film, Fist Fightclobbers the audience with three penis jokes, two gay jokes, and one joke about race (Ice Cube refers to a pair of pranksters, one African-American, the other Asian, as "Rush Hour"). This isn't simply bad comedy, it's brutally lazy bad comedy.
Thus is Fist Fight, an irreverent, vulgarian comedy that's about as funny as taking a gut-punch after indulging in a five course meal, and sometimes almost as painful. It paints a terribly unrealistic picture of high school, so much so that I mention how unrealistic and insane the environment is in a comedy where that shouldn't even be a reasonable concern. This is a 91 minute cartoon where even the prankster teenagers seem to have more reason and maturity than the adults.
Charlie Day plays Andy Campbell, a wimpy, meek, mild-mannered English teacher, who gets into trouble alongside Ice Cube's Ron Strickland, a loud, violent, and ominous history teacher, accentuating full use of racial stereotypes. After Strickland takes an axe to a student's desk for toying with the VCR, the two teachers make a small pact to stick together so Campbell doesn't rat Strickland out. Campbell has a wife, a daughter, and another child on the way and can't afford to lose his job even in a sea of financial cutbacks, teacher firings, and a school that's a product of the failing public school (despite it looking nicer than any failing public school every would).
Ice Cube, Charlie Day, Tracy Morgan
17 February 2017
Steve's Grade: D
Campbell winds up ratting on Strickland to the dean (Dean Norris), prompting Strickland to challenge the feeble Campbell to a fist-fight after school. He partly wants to punish Campbell and show him how actions have consequences, but he also wants to send a message to the state and to the nation about the failure of the public school system. The false equivalency of two meathead teachers getting into a fist-fight to show how public school has failed suggests the screenwriters of the film, Van Robichaux and Evan Susser, did the best they could do to justify such an inane premise.
The film revolves around Campbell's efforts to call off the fight, which sometimes involves talking to Holly (Jillian Bell), a meth-addicted guidance counselor anxiously awaiting a student to graduate so she can sleep with him, or Freddie (Tracy Morgan), the sorry school football coach for the perpetual losers known as the Roosevelt High School Stallions. Meanwhile, the kids just run freely around the halls, undisciplined as if they're engaging in a penitentiary riot. Even worse, none of the teachers seem to do much teaching. If Campbell can freely leave school to venture out to buy a MacBook Pro for a student in hopes that he'll go back on his testimony that Strickland assaulted him, does Campbell even need to worry about getting fired?
Fist Fight is very reminiscent of those school-centered kids shows, like Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, where characters spent more time roaming the halls and mingling with one another than they did actually in class. The film also boasts about the same level of conviction and maturity as those programs as well.
I feel the most surprising character of the hour has to be the strange Miss Monet, played by Mad Men's Christina Hendricks. Miss Monet is a drama teacher, who advises Strickland shortly after he challenges Campbell to a fight to take her pocket-knife to slit his skull and throat. Her character is so dramatically intense that every time she steps on screen, she's in command, even if she has maybe five minutes of screen-time throughout the entire film. A man's got to look for some silver lining in a comedy that's essentially a black-hole.
No matter how short it proves to be, or how quickly paced it is, Fist Fight is nothing more than an assembly of comic dead-ends, subjecting proven performers to a cacophony of noise and violent humor. Some comedies can get away with lackluster writing if the respective actors can work their magic to liven up the aura and make rather unfunny or rote comedy seem fresh and worthy of a laugh. Fist Fight pants and wheezes simply to get its joke across, that by the time the inevitable climax comes, you're more stunned at yourself for being so committed to make it that far.