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Fill in the blanks and move along

By Paul Hall

None of the teachers are ready for what the last day of school brings in the new movie Fist Fight. The kids are wild and pranks are occurring at a rate that makes the national debt growth look slow.

When one student takes things too far, Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube) destroys a desk.
And when Mr. Campbell (Charlie Day) crumbles under pressure and snitches, it’s on — the teacher fight is about to become reality.

Fights happen in schools, but they usually don’t involve the staff. This fight features two very different teachers. Mr. Strickland is the disciplinarian, ruling with an iron fist. There are no free passes in his history class. Mr. Campbell is the nice teacher who generally gets walked on by students and other teachers alike. His wife has a baby on the way and he cannot afford to lose his job. Campbell may have saved his job, but may lose his face, as Mr. Strickland wants revenge.

In this day and age, with technology everywhere, word quickly spreads of the impending schoolyard battle. The hashtags fly as everyone looks forward to the 3 o’clock duel after school. Has it come to this?

At moments Fist Fight is funny, very funny. The problem is that there are too many moments that are extremely vulgar for what seems to be no good reason. Those sequences grind the film to a halt. Instead of being genuinely funny first and vulgar second, the “funny” gets left behind. Charlie Day and Ice Cube are decent foils for one another and, despite the thin setup for the fight they take part in, they bring the very different personalities of their characters to light.

The story tries to make the day self-contained, but instead just raises question after question. Questions like, why is Mr. Strickland so mean? And, did these two teachers even know each other before this day? And that’s just the beginning. I could go on and on about my questions of what led these characters to the epic fight that we build to.

I wanted to really like this film, but I ended up just being underwhelmed. I felt like I did when most substitute teachers came into my classes. They paled in comparison to what we expected because they weren’t always living and breathing the subject. The filmmakers gave us a warmed-over and very generic worksheet of a film. Just fill in the blanks and move along.

I’m left wondering what it would have been like in my day if teachers in my school went out back and fought out their problems. Mr. Brandt vs. Mr. Merkel, Mrs. Roehm vs. Mrs. Rubatt, or the epic Mr. Wegner vs. Mr. Goldman would have been quite interesting, but wouldn’t have drawn the crowds that this battle had. Instead, Cube vs. Day will just have to do.

Paul’s Grade: C+

Fist Fight
Rated: R
Stars: Ice Cube, Charlie Day, Tracy Morgan
Director: Richie Keen

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