WARNING: The following review contains spoilers, I’m telling you now so you don’t pretend to be outraged later.
If you have read my reviews lately, I have grown sour on comedies in the last few months, especially the stoner brand of comedy that we have seen in the last decade. After watching Office Christmas Party and Why Him? I was convinced that Hollywood couldn’t write a good comedy to save their lives. As a matter of fact, I’m currently debating whether to switch to a drinking game format for Seth Rogen and James Franco films going forward (Stay Tuned). With not much confidence in the world of laughs, I had very low expectations for Fist Fight which honestly after watching the trailers looked like more of the same. After catching an early screening of the film all I can say is, thank God I was wrong.
Fist Fight is a film about a teaching staff at Roosevelt High School, it’s the last day of school so the juvenile delinquents are terrorizing the teachers for Senior Prank Day. To make matters worse, the school board is laying off teachers making their job status completely uncertain. During the day, Mr. Campbell (Charlie Day) rats out his colleague Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube) for an ax attack early in the day. So as punishment, Strickland challenges Campbell to a fight at the end of the day and Campbell proceeds to spend the rest of his day (and thousands of dollars) looking for a way to back out.
The plot is simple and the film doesn’t try to take itself seriously. They know the premise is ridiculous, so they own it. The film hilariously pokes fun at Ice Cube’s cold demeanor and reputation. There’s a story of Mr. Campbell overcoming his perception of being a Bitch to stand up for himself, the film even includes social commentary on the broken school system. So many subtle references and details put into the script makes the movie much smarter than the trailer lets on. If you are a fan of Always Sunny in Philadelphia, you are going to notice many similarities, especially with director Richie Keen and Charlie Day, both alums from the show working on this project. Watching this movie, you can feel that there was more effort put into the humor so the jokes hit more than they miss. I have attacked films like Sausage Party in the past who decided to be vulgar for the sake of being vulgar, but Keen makes sure that his foul-mouthed movie has more substance than that. Little things like Cube and Day having a mock school debate where Day is Israel and Cube is Iran works so well because requires a little more thought and an appreciation for the cleverness.
The film does lack support from its characters outside of Cube and Day. Christina Hendricks is terribly underused in the film as a crazy Drama teacher; Jillian Bell does her typical ad-lib shtick, mostly revolving around trying to sleep with the students. Tracy Morgan is pretty good, but it doesn’t feel like you get enough of him. Normally I would recommend a film like this for a Red Box viewing; however, there is a bit involving a popular Big Sean song towards the end which absolutely steals the film and wins me over.
Fist Fight is smart, funny, self-aware, and clever. Words that I haven’t been able to say about a comedy in a while, but I’m glad I was able to say it for this.
OFFICIAL RATING: ***
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