Good (2 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, drug use and pervasive profanity
Running time: 91 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures
Do you remember how, when you were growing up, if a couple of classmates came to blows on the schoolyard, they would be quickly separated to the suggestion that they settle their differences off campus at the end of the day? That was the point of departure of Three O’Clock High, a 1987 comedy about a bully with a short fuse who challenges a mild-mannered milquetoast to a duel after school.
Ostensibly inspired by that teensploitation classic, Fist Fight is a slight variation on the theme which flips the script by having a couple of teachers squaring-off instead of students. Otherwise, the basic idea remains intact.
The movie co-stars Ice Cube and Charlie Day as Ron Strickland and Andy Campbell, respectively, colleagues at Roosevelt High. Intimidating history teacher Ron cuts a sharp contrast to nerdy English teacher Andy, and much of the humor revolves around their difference in temperament.
The action unfolds on the last day of.school which is when we find seniors running a muck and pulling a variety of outrageous pranks like kicking the spout off a water cooler and rocking the ineffective security guard’s (Kumail Nanjiani) golf cart while he’s still sitting in it. Despite the insanity, the faculty is doing its best to maintain decorum.
Nevertheless, Mr. Campbell’s lesson on why words matter is interrupted by the antics of class clowns. He’s able to handle the disruption far better than Mr. Strickland who proceeds to blow his cork.
The plight thickens when both teachers are summoned to Principal Tyler’s (Dean Norris) office to explain why Ron chopped a disrespectful pupil’s desk in half with an ax. The upshot of the meeting is that Ron loses his job because of Andy, so he challenges him to a fight after school. Consequently, fraidy cat Campbell spends the rest of the afternoon trying to find a way to avoid the confrontation.
Too bad, the ensuing buildup to the big showdown between the adversaries proves to be less entertaining than the promising premise. For, the two share few funny moments following the setup. Luckily, this kitchen sink comedy continues to deliver courtesy of such student stunts as hiring a mariachi band to follow the principal around the halls.
The movie marks the feature film debut of actor-turned-director Richie Keen, who also makes a cameo appearance as a computer store employee. And the support cast includes the scene-stealing Tracy Morgan whose quirky trademark mannerisms are put on full display.
Note, Fist Fight is a relentlessly-profane romp which might have set a record for the use of the F-word. Since the closing tableau sets up the sequel, might I suggest that the next installment cut down on the curses in favor of more jokes.