“Fist Fight” takes a look at teacher rivalries
I am sure you remember back in high school witnessing teachers exchange passive-aggressive phrases as they walked past each other in the hall, and how it all resulted in a school-wide event where they met each other in the parking lots and began punching the living daylights out of each other. Okay, maybe not the last one, but most of us did see that there was animosity amongst some of the faculty at our high schools, and that is taken to the extreme in the film “Fist Fight,” opening Feb. 17.
In the movie, English teacher Andy Campbell (Charlie Day, known for “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”), tries to make it through the last day before summer vacation at a failing high school, alongside hard-edged history teacher Mr. Strickland, played by rapper Ice Cube. When a senior prank goes wrong, Campbell lets something slip that results in Strickland being fired.Strickland then challenges Campbell to a fist-fight at 3 p.m.
Alarmed, mild-mannered Campbell tries to resolve, blackmail, and threaten his way out of the fight, but the news hits social media. The same time that the fight occurs, Campbell has an interview with his job on the line, a pregnant wife, and an insecure daughter involved, and Campbell is in for one day that can’t be saved by the bell.
It’s clear from the get-go that “Fist Fight” operates on cartoon logic, and most of the jokes and gags are things that one would expect to see out of TV shows like “Family Guy” or “American Dad” (I was genuinely shocked that Seth McFarlane wasn’t involved in this). The senior pranks especially make up a majority of the jokes, which distract rather than entertain, though the crowd that I saw it with didn’t seem to mind the immaturity.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t the jokes that bothered me as much as the people delivering them. I love Day and Ice Cube, and to be fair, they have great chemistry as rivals here. “Workaholics” star Jillian Bell also does a good job as a cougar-like guidance counselor, and “30 Rock’s” Tracy Morgan is funny as the gym teacher.
But many of the talented actors in the film were not able to have their chance at showing off their comedic skills. “Mad Men’s” Christina Hendricks and “Silicon Valley’s” Kumail Nanjiani are criminally underused, and “Breaking Bad’s” Dean Norris, as the about-to-snap principal, is mainly there to yell and be angry. It’s a shame, because most of these actors are gifted when it comes to comedy, but are not given enough jokes or time onscreen.
To be completely honest, I surprisingly found myself laughing at the immaturity of it all. It’s a perfectly mindless and entertaining movie, but that’s fine. It’s fun to see the mismatched pairing that is Day and Ice Cube playing off each other so well, and the titular fight, which comes near the end, is solidly done. So if you’re up for 90 minutes of something mindless, but entertaining, “Fist Fight” will work well.