Directed by Richie Keen. Starring Ice Cube, Charlie Day, Dean Norris, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Kumail Nanjiani, Christina Hendricks, Dennis Haysbert. (2017, R, 91 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Feb. 17, 2017
A movie whose premise can be boiled down to its hashtag – #teacherfight – Fist Fight aims for nothing more than fleeting laughs. On the last day of the semester, Roosevelt High School is overrun by an onslaught of student pranks, while English teacher Mr. Campbell (Day) anxiously awaits word of his re-employment for the upcoming school year. A mild-mannered man, Campbell soon crosses swords with the hothead history teacher Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube), who takes a fire axe to a student’s desk. Strickland challenges Campbell to an afterschool throwdown, news of which spreads instantly via viral videos. Also complicating Campbell’s afterschool plans is his promise to his daughter to perform with her at her grade school talent show, and his very pregnant wife (Swisher, an Amy Adams doppelgänger), who looks like she was ready to deliver weeks ago.
Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) is moderately amusing as a guy who just spins his wheels deeper as he tries to dig himself out of the mess he’s created. Ice Cube does nothing but scowl. (Yes, it’s his signature expression, but now he no longer attempts to do anything else as an actor; all he looks for is a comic foil.) Every few syllables of the film’s dialogue are peppered with four-letter words, which instantly (and needlessly) ramps up the film’s rating to “R.” A Greek chorus of boneheads surround the two leads: Dean Norris is the aggravated school principal, Tracy Morgan the bizarro gym teacher, Jillian Bell the inappropriate guidance counselor who wants to seduce her students, Kumail Nanjiani a superfluous security guard, and Christina Hendricks … it’s hard to say what Hendricks is doing in this picture, so poorly is her character conceived. Not even the blooper reel tacked to the end of the film garners many laughs. Fist Fight is not a complete dud, but it does grasp at the lowest hanging fruit for its humor.