And few of the adults are any more dependable in their judgment. Over the past two decades, Cube has amassed an impressive filmography with appearances in films like the Barbershop, Jump Street, and Ride Along series. More fun than amusing, and marred by endless f-bombs, Fist Fight still emanates enough good will to capture its fan base of Cube and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” followers.
Campbell (Charlie Day) and Strickland (Ice Cube) are teachers at a raucous high school.
All in all, it was as fun as one would imagine – save for the after-school fight between Cube and Day’s characters, which Day has not entirely recovered from physically.
Ideally cast if nothing else, Fist Fight pits the perpetually freaked-out Charlie Day against the perpetually scowling Ice Cube in the most lopsided matchup since Bugs Bunny outwrestled The Crusher. The perpetually seething Strickland then offers Campbell an ultimatum: at 3 p.m., they’re going to have a fist fight. But the worst prank of all is being pulled on the teachers because Principal Tyler (Dean Norris) is deciding which teachers need to be fired on this last day of school. The movie is often laugh-out-loud amusing, I have to admit, but I’m willing to bet that teenagers in audience will enjoy it a lot more than teachers and administrators.
The thing is, Campbell is definitely in the right to have the unsafe Strickland canned, even if the guy is the only employee of the school with any control and authority, as well as the only person with any reason when it comes to school budget spending and the interests of his students (plus he loves Ken Burns documentaries). Besides his participation in Chris Rock’s “Top Five”, “Fist Fight” is Morgan’s first major film since his almost fatal auto accident in 2014. As Campbell schemes to get out of the fight, the film keeps humming with jokes on the margins, majority defiantly brow-scorching. Right out of the gate, Day is a likable protagonist you can’t help but root for.
“Let’s face it, you can’t fix an economy and you can’t solve whatever problems there are in society if we don’t educate the kids coming up in our future to be able to do that.”, Day says.
Perhaps in a nod to Three O’Clock High’s active camerawork (by Barry Sonnenfeld, before he became a director), Keen and DP Eric Alan Edwards enjoy pushing in on Strickland and Campbell as threats are delivered in this and later scenes. When he informs her that he is a teacher, she makes him repeat that for the enjoyment of the entire 911 center. Campbell has a hard time teaching Strickland how to work a coffee maker in one of the film’s earlier scenes.
Day and Cube give the same performances they’ve given in numerous other roles, and supporting players Jillian Bell and Tracy Morgan do likewise. They’re all just as amusing and superb as the film’s two leads.
Tracy Morgan has a good sense of humor about his scary 2014 accident. Students wear T-shirts with expletives, watch porn in the hall, destroy water fountains, vandalize cars, harass the security guard (Kumail Nanjiani), masturbate in the bathroom, etc. Who has a talent show on the last day of school?
“This is just a movie that says the prisoners have taken over the prison yard”, Keen says. At one point, Holly argues with Campbell about whether or not it’s morally OK to sleep with her students when they turn 18. “Fist Fight” is not one of them.
But if your humour tastes are slightly more refined than a 16-year-old’s, you’re going to feel like you went 12 rounds with a couple of infantile jokesters. (The posters for both are remarkably similar, in fact.) At heart, the film remains a satisfying fantasy for anyone who’s ever clung to the lowest bar on the social ladder and dreamed of unlikely comeuppance.