These are crazy times that we live in. Almost regularly there are headlines about violence in schools. It's not uncommon for kids to walk through metal detectors or see police officers patrolling the hallways. Schools are supposed to be a safe zone and the teachers are seen as authority figures. But what happens when the faculty is just as crazy and hot headed as the student body? That's the basis for the new film "Fist Fight," where it's the teachers fighting in the hallways.
As the last day of school approaches, the students are running wild and playing pranks whenever possible. In a district fighting to stay financially afloat, the students are out of control and the teachers are struggling to keep their jobs amid a sea of layoffs. Things go bad to worse for English teacher Andy Campbell ("It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" star Charlie Day) when he is forced to snitch on a fellow teacher (Ice Cube) for smashing a student's desk with a fire ax. That teacher, Mr. Strickland, doesn't take kindly to it -- despite knowing Andy was just trying to save his job -- and challenges his associate to a fist fight after school.
Mr. Strickland is the tough teacher who doesn't believe in giving a free period, forcing the students to watch a civil war documentary on their last day of class. But his prickly persona doesn't end with the kids. He's treats his fellow teachers similarly, but then expects that Andy is going to follow the code of teachers sticking together.
In an attempt to soften Strickland, the pair of screenwriters who created this masterpiece of inanity tries to offer a larger plan for why he threatened a fist fight. It's one of those moments where you think things can't get any worse and the movie sets out to prove you wrong. What's even worse is that almost none of the other faculty members attempt to stop the brawl from happening.
Along with taking two people to write this screenplay, Max Greenfield ("New Girl") helped conceive of the idea, which is really just a rift on "Three O'Clock High" and "Big Bully." But there doesn't seem to have been much concern for continuity between the scenes. Rather than creating characters, the writers have created setups for would-be jokes. For a movie that is set around the last day of school, there's a surprising amount of the film that takes place off campus.
Though Ice Cube and Day are being touted as the marquee names for the film, it's the film's female supporting cast that provides the few shining moments. Jillian Bell, who's made a name for herself by stealing scenes in "22 Jump Street" and "Office Christmas Party," continues her hot streak as a naughty guidance counselor. "Reba" star Joanne Garcia Swisher also provides an emotional center as the pregnant wife of Day's character. She doesn't have many feature films to her credit as yet, but she proves strong enough here to possibly change that.
Conversely, Christina Hendricks appears to be slumming it by appearing in what amounts to barely more than a cameo as the school's French teacher. The only answer as to why she is appearing here is that she has a knife fetish and wanted to share that onscreen with the world. Her character doesn't make sense, though not much of the film in general does, and she only pops up sporadically.
"Fist Fight" does try to offer a commentary about the current state of public education and what teachers are forced to deal with when attempting to do their jobs. In an era where Betsy DeVos is serving as the secretary of education, these observations have never been more relevant. However, these moments come across ham-fisted as a motivation for adults acting as bad, if not worse, than their pupils.
"Fist Fight" portrays its students as unruly and the teachers as clueless, offering few people to actually root for in the titular brawl. But having unlikable characters isn't the death knell; it's the inability to create a narrative that is able to consistently find humor in itself. As an audience we should demand better than this haphazard mess.
InfoRuntime :: 91 mins
Release Date :: Feb 17, 2017
Language :: Silent
Country :: United States
CastAndy Campbell :: Charlie Day
Strickland :: Ice Cube
Coach Crawford :: Tracy Morgan
Holly :: Jillian Bell
Principal Tyler :: Dean Norris
Ms. Monet :: Christina Hendricks
Mehar :: Kumail Nanjiani
Superintendent Johnson :: Dennis Haysbert
Maggie :: JoAnna Garcia Swisher
Ally :: Alexa Nisenson
Suzie :: Stephnie Weir
911 Operator :: Kym Whitley
Neil :: Austin Zajur
Irv :: Gordon Danniels
William :: Bill Kottkamp
Cody :: Jose Diaz
Jordan :: Tim Johnson
Blake :: Nicholas Alexander
Nathaniel :: Charlie Carver
Daniel :: Max Carver
CrewDirector :: Richie Keen
Screenwriter :: Van Robichaux
Screenwriter :: Evan Susser
Producer :: Shawn Levy
Producer :: Max Greenfield
Producer :: John Rickard
Producer :: Dan Cohen
Executive Producer :: Toby Emmerich
Executive Producer :: Richard Brener
Executive Producer :: Samuel Brown
Executive Producer :: Dave Neustadter
Executive Producer :: Charlie Day
Strickland :: Ice Cube
Executive Producer :: Marty P. Ewing
Executive Producer :: Billy Rosenberg
Executive Producer :: Bruce Berman
Executive Producer :: Steven Mnuchin
Cinematographer :: Eric Edwards
Film Editor :: Matthew Freund
Original Music :: Dominic Lewis
Production Design :: Chris Cornwell
Art Director :: Charlie Campbell
Set Decoration :: Amy McGary
Costume Designer :: Denise Wingate
Casting :: Rich Delia