1987 saw the release of “Three O’ Clock High,” a teen comedy about a student who is challenged to a fight by a bully and tries everything to avoid it, and “Fist Fight” is a remake of this film nearly 30 years later.
This time, it’s the teachers who fight.
Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) is an introverted English teacher at the local high school. He avoids problems wherever he can, a stoic master of enduring the students’ pranks on the last day. Ron Strickland (Ice Cube) is the exact opposite, and has a breakdown when a guy in his class goes too far with his shenanigans. Andy, who is coincidentally in the same room, witnesses Ron destroying the student’s desk with an axe and he rats him out to Principal Tyler (Dean Norris) after being threatened with losing his job. Ron doesn’t take the news very well and challenges a terrified Andy to a fist fight after school, whose mission is now to avoid the fight at all costs.
The premise sounds humorous, and Day, one of the funniest guys on TV (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) leads a cast that’s highly promising. In addition to Day and Ice Cube, there’s also Tracy Morgan in his first film after his car accident, “Workaholics” star Jillian Bell, “Breaking Bad”’s finest Dean Norris, and, in a small role, Christina Hendricks from “Mad Men.” This cast promises entertainment, unfortunately the writers, Van Robichaux and Evan Susser, and first-time director Richie Keen fail to deliver. At no point do they find a cohesive tone or commitment to make the film over-the-top or safe. Also, for an R-rated movie, it’s quite tame—just a bunch of foul words.
Still, it’s not a complete failure. Unlike other teen comedies, this movie doesn’t rely on disgusting jokes, which is a big plus. Only every other gag is worthy of a laugh, in the end it’s another comedy with a hilarious-but-implausible premise. It feels stretched, uninspired at times and would have been better as a short movie.
Charlie Day is hilarious as always. Watching him getting closer to a nervous breakdown is probably the funniest part of the movie. Ice Cube convincingly portrays an intimidating teacher. Christina Hendricks’ character was a complete failure. It’s just never funny, and it’s sad to see such a great actress wasting her time.
This movie is best watched with a group of friends and lots of drinks. Ultimately the movie can’t deliver what the trailer promised. The comedic timing is off way too often, and there are too many plot holes, even for a comedy. “Fist Fight” will surely find its audience, but compared to movies like “Horrible Bosses,” “Masterminds” or the films of the “Frat Pack,” this is flyweight material.
Fist Fight (2017); directed by Richie Keen, written by Van Robichaux & Evan Susser; with Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Dean Norris, Christina Hendricks; 91 minutes; R-rated
My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars