Richie Keen’s Fist Fight depicts mild-mannered high school English teacher Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) attempting to just make it through an outrageously chaotic senior prank day on the last day of the school year. Amidst budget cuts and a bevy of genitalia-themed pranks, Campbell manages to get fellow teacher Ron Strickland (Ice Cube), who happens to be the most feared person at the school, fired. Strickland then challenges Campbell to a fist fight after school, a piece of news that spreads through the school and town like wildfire. At that point, Campbell has to decide whether to keep being nice or to nut up and fight Strickland.
So, it was funny. And the fight was pretty epic…
Ah, it’s just that we've all seen something like this before: it feels the same, formulaic, unsurprising, unchallenging, uninspiring, inoffensive (even despite all the genitalia humor). It wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel or do much with said wheel at all.
Within all that formulaic stuff, the filmmakers did manage to include some good jokes that did incite genuine laughter in the audience. I mean, when you cast Tracy Morgan (in his first role after his tragic car accident, btw), you’re bound to have at least a few funny moments on hand. In fact, all of the cast was good (I mean, when are any of these guys not?!). I love seeing Charlie Day let loose (well, and yell and be emotional and generally picked on and walked all over, ya know, all those things that make him lovable), and Jillian Bell as guidance counselor Holly was a riot (and quite disturbing…). Still, the characters were all one-dimensional, with even Campbell’s arc feeling under-realized and under-thought. And Strickland as super self-serious borderline bully was painfully uninteresting.
So, with its too tidy ending and all, Fist Fight will leave warmish fuzzies in your heart and give you a few laughs, but it can’t do anything more for you than that. You could see every plot point and story moment from a mile away, but I guess that doesn't mean that moments like that haven't worked before. And if that's all the filmmakers were trying to do, then they were successful. So here we have it: it’s not fresh, it’s not horrendous. It’s using all that has come before it, that has passed for passable comedy before. It’s x= Fist Fight.