Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review: "Fist Fight"

So “Fist Fight” is based on a concept that doesn’t survive past its first minute: one high school teacher challenging another to a fight in the parking lot after school lets out.

Sure, it’s a comedy -- but even funny films owe us a certain amount of plausible rectitude.

By all rights, this movie should have died in its infancy. Deserved to be slapped down during the pitch meeting in the producer’s office. Flung objects would not have been unwarranted.

But they went ahead and wrote it, filmed it, edited it and put music to it, and pushed it out into theaters. And I had to watch it.

SO many questions…
  • What exactly does Mr. Strickland, the surly history teacher played by Ice Cube, think he’s going to accomplish by fighting his offender? He’s already lost his job for taking an axe to a student’s desk – while the student was still in it -- so is he just determined to end his day by getting arrested?
  • Maybe he knows something we don’t, because the law enforcement response to the impending fight is astonishingly tepid. The 9-1-1 operators even laugh about it.
  • Andy Campbell, the nerdy English teacher played by Charlie Day, spends the entire movie trying to get out of the fight we know is ultimately going to happen, using all sorts of schemes and contretemps. At one point he bribes a student with an expensive laptop to change his story to the principal (Dean Norris). Why doesn’t he just say, “Hey, I’m sick, going home” around lunchtime?
  • Why is it that news about the fight spreads through Roosevelt High School like wildfire, and then onto the Internet, even spawning YouTube videos and the hashtag #teacherfight, but none of the school administrators or Andy’s wife (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) ever hear about it?
I will admit to laughing now and then. Tracy Morgan gets a few as Freddie, the brash and utterly incompetent football coach. And I liked Jillian Bell as Holly, the no-boundaries teacher who openly desires hookups with her teenage charges, and takes meth -- but only before school, not during, she says when admonished by Andy.

“Because it’s a gateway?” she asks.

“Well, it’s the finish line,” he responds.

Other than that, it’s a chore to get through. Subplots involving Andy’s very pregnant wife a talent show competition with his daughter don’t provide much comedic ammo, though the latter ends with a shock.

Charlie Day’s motormouth nebbish routine is good at lighting up other movies (“Pacific Rim”), but a lot of that goes a short way. And Cube is just doing that familiar snarly ‘tude thing that has taken his film career a lot further than it deserved.

If there’s a lesson to be taken home from “Fist Fight,” it’s that sometimes you just have to stand up for yourself. Specifically, your right to buy a ticket to something else.

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