Charlie Day Ice Cube Christina Hendricks Tracy Morgan Jillian Bell Dean Norris
This is one of the most pathetic, obnoxious films I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to know where to start. It pains me to learn that it is supposed to be a comedy. Mr. Campbell (Day) is an English teacher in a high school completely out of control where students are able to put porn on TVs, use their cell phones to disrupt a video on the Civil War, write obscene remarks on a teacher’s blackboard (which are not erasable), spray the hallway floor with oil, and so on. (Hopefully, you don’t know of any school in the world like this, and that it’s completely a product of the filmmakers’ minds.) Campbell is a nice guy, but on the wimpy side, who is not averse to being sneaky—both of which he is accused of by everyone. He gets framed right and left, but often because he simply doesn’t stand up for himself.
He is a perfect foil for the teacher-bully at the school, Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube), who is able to maintain authority simply with a loud, commanding voice and penetrating stare. Strickland is a good example of how this kind of authoritarianism is ineffective at best and abusive at worst. He is also primed to single people out with pointed finger to blame for his troubles. He’s still a (very) big kid with poor impulse control.
The basic scenario of the film is that these two characters get cross-wires with each other, abetted by the students, but aided by their own poor problem-solving skills. They have regressed to the point that the bully insists on the wimp coming outside after school for a fistfight (Fist Fight; get it?). “We’re gonna handle this like real men”, says Strickland. Real men? Not!
To add “spice” to the drama, the script calls for the school counselor to be the hopeless counselor who does drugs and flirts with a student, and another (Hendricks), who whips out a knife, wanting Strickland to use it on Campbell.
I always dread films that have school or psychology as subjects because Hollywood is notorious for mishandling and miscasting them. Here, most of the students look like they’re at least in their twenties (making the action even more absurd), and the adults behave like children with poor impulse control who resort to outright lying when confronted. Fist Fight models such a bad school environment it becomes absurd.
But the most disturbing experience of the screening is that a significant number of people in the audience, laughed throughout and applauded at the end. I wonder, “Who are these people? Do they not grasp the importance of modeling in films? Do they think it’s hilarious when mobs egg on two people to fight one another, even when there’s a mismatch?”
Fist Fight is not recommended for anybody anywhere anytime.
Grade: F By Donna R. Copeland