by George Wolf
At Roosevelt High, it’s the last day before summer break, and the school’s online newspaper gets a breaking story:
WHY MR. CAMPBELL WILL DIE
Seems the meek Mr. Campbell (Charlie Day) snitched on the scary Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube), and you know what they say about snitches. They get their asses beat on the playground while the whole school watches…and they will most likely require stitches at some point.
Fist Fight is often contrived and ridiculous, and has those funny bloopers ready to roll as soon as possible, but ya know, it fills the class with enough likable clowns to get a pass.
The two leads aren’t asked to venture beyond their respective comfort zones, but do display some nice comic timing that bolsters their easy chemistry. Cube pushes his menacing persona and steely glare for all they are worth while Day does the same with the naturally funny pairing of his diminutive stature and high-pitched wheeze. The conflict of their characters is grounded just by these two actors sharing the same frame, giving the film a comic foundation from the start.
Then you have the always weird and welcome Jillian Bell as a guidance counselor who’s really fond of drugs and “that tenis” (teenage penis), Kumail Nanjiani’s by-the-book school security officer and Tracy Morgan dispensing wisdom as Coach Crawford (“You can’t run away! Who is you, Seabiscuit?”) for a steady stream of nuttiness.
Director Richie Keen makes his feature debut after years of TV episodes (including Day’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), keeping the pace lively and the mood raunchy. He even shows a little theatrical flair once the students’ start spreading rumors of Mr.Strickland’s murderous past, and the fantasies play out with hilarious excess.
Fist Fight offers violence, plenty of sex-fueled gags and the obligatory foul-mouthed grade-schooler. It’s an adult education, for sure, and just funny enough not to skip.