Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Fist Fight: Movie Review

Forced humour derails what could have been a very funny film.

I would like to say that I don’t understand the thought process behind Fist Fight, but the problem is, I do. It’s loosely based on the ‘80s comedy Three O’Clock High, but switches the students and teachers around to make a social commentary on today’s education system. That idea should work, but the execution does not. Too many jokes fall flat and anything interesting to say is lost in the lazy joke-telling. 2017

Directed by: Richie Keen

Screenplay by: Van Robichaux, Evan Susser

Starring: Charlie Day, Ice Cube

The pairing of Ice Cube and Charlie Day as the teachers that are going to get in a fight was probably made just to get as many jokes in as possible about the obvious differences between them. The real problem with this pairing is that they are acting in different movies. And I have no clue if it was directed this way on purpose or not. Charlie Day belongs in a comedy about a teacher getting threatened to fight. He knows full well that he’s in a comedy, and there’s an underlying element of “don’t take this too seriously” in everything he says and does – which considering this movie is a comedy, is exactly the right tone to strike.

Ice Cube, on the other hand, takes his role very seriously. It’s just too silly and stupid of a role to play as straight as he does. He swears throughout the entire movie and threatens violence every second along the way – and he never plays it for laughs until Day finally starts wearing him down at the end. The other teachers also have some pretty outlandish things to say and do – a very necessary and almost scarily accurate representation of public schools today – but they didn’t have great delivery in order to get those jokes to land.

I’m a big fan of Charlie Day and he’s easily the highlight here. A hard-working teacher, father and husband, who tries to do the right thing but can get a bit high-strung. The high-strung part is definitely not a stretch for him, but there’s an underlying normalcy to Andy Campbell that is usually missing from his other characters. He and Alexa Nisenson as daughter Ally are responsible for the best scene – a father-daughter talent show that is sure to end in expulsions and jobs lost.

There are definitely funny moments in Fist Fight, but one of the most frustrating aspects is that there could have been a lot more. With a more experienced hand at the helm, somebody who knows when to reign actors in and how to not force humour that isn’t there, more jokes would land and fewer would fall flat like they do here.