Fist Fight Uses Humor To Punch Through A Messy Story

The Ice Cube and Charlie Day-starring Fist Fight struggled with its pacing and identity at times, but packed in enough laughs to make the flick worthwhile.

Ice Cube and Charlie Day star as high school teachers prepared to solve their differences the hard way. On the last day of the year, mild-mannered high school English teacher Andy Campbell (Day) is trying his best to keep it together amidst senior pranks, a dysfunctional administration and budget cuts that put jobs on the line. But things go from bad to worse when he accidentally crosses his much tougher and deeply feared colleague, Ron Strickland (Ice Cube), who challenges Campbell to an old-fashioned throw-down after school. News of the fight spreads like wildfire and ends up becoming the very thing this school, and Campbell, needed.

Long story short; two different educators had two very different opinions about how to educate students. Both Campbell and Strickland however, were hindered by the failing education system that plagues most of our country. Director Richie Keen was able to nail home the fact that many teachers try to give the kids their very best, but their progress is hindered by the system, and the lack of materials given.

This makes the villain of Fist Fight the corporate side of the education system, and the film did a great job of getting that point across during its third act.

The problem though, is that the film took a very indirect approach to telling that story. All of the necessary pieces were there from the jump, but they creative team tried to pack entirely too much into it. When parts of the film got this overcrowded, the story and humor got a little lost.

For example, the running joke of Jillian Bell's character wanting to have sex with a specific student got really old, really fast. The initial joke about her character trying to sleep with students after graduation was worth a laugh, but it never really stopped. Eventually, it ended up being a gag that no one wanted to hear more of, and a completely useless moment of "closure" at the end of the film.

The other big factor taking away from the quality of the film, which was probably its biggest crime as a whole, was the inclusion of Christina Hendricks' character. The female teacher was set up to be this ultra-violent, murder-minded psychopath, and that only resulted in lines that seemed way out of place. The teacher would appear out of nowhere, suggest Ice Cube should cut off Charlie Day's face, and leave again. Even in the end of the movie, there was literally no payoff here whatsoever.

Aside from the crowded roster and script, and a little trouble with pacing, Fist Fight managed to still become a good comedy by the end.

Each of the four main actors - Day, Cube, Bell, and Tracy Morgan - brought their A-game. Jillian Bell is one of the best in the business and making terribly dirty content seem hilarious and accessible. Tracy Morgan hadn't really appeared in much since his unfortunate accident, but his return showed that he hadn't lost an ounce of his talent or charm. Each of Morgan's lines was delivered with the heart and hilarity that fans of come to love.

Ice Cube and Charlie Day made for a great pairing, as the two found a great balance on-screen. There were moments in the film that seemed like they were going to fall flat, but the opposite styles of the two actors were perfect for each other.

At the end of the day, the film got across the message that it meant to. There are problems in how the education system is serving our children. It took a lot of dirty jokes to make the point, but it was worth the ride to get there.

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If you're easily offended, you probably won't enjoy the movie. But, if you've spent any time working with high school students, you'll appreciate seeing the stress of the job lived out in a comedic way - for once.

Overall Grade: C+

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(Photo: Warner Bros.)