Director: Richie Keen
Producers: Shawn Levy, Max Greenfield, John Rickard, and Dan Cohen
Executive Producers: Toby Emmerich, Richard Brener, Samuel J. Brown, Dave Neustadter, Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Marty P. Ewing, Billy Rosenberg, and Bruce Berman
Screenplay: Van Robichaux & Evan Susser
Story by: Van Robichaux & Evan Susser and Max Greenfield
Starring: Ice Cube, Charlie Day, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Dean Norris, Christina Hendricks, Dennis Haysbert
The last day of high school, referred to as ‘Muck Up Day’ in Australia, but ‘Senior Prank Day’ in America, is the backdrop for the new comedy film ‘Fist Fight’ from director Richie Keen, whose first foray into feature films bears a strong resemblance to a bland television movie, with unflattering lighting, poor pacing and pedestrian scene set-ups.
Ice Cube (‘Straight Outta Compton’) plays the strict, by-the-rules history teacher Ron Strickland (get it?) and Charlie Day (‘Horrible Bosses’) is the younger, popularity-seeking, wimpy English teacher Andy Campbell. Following a major meltdown by Strickland during a class, Andy Campbell is forced into exposing his colleague’s behaviour in order to protect his own employment at the school, leading to Strickland being fired. Frankly, after watching Strickland’s appalling behaviour, I would not only have dismissed him, but also imprisoned him for attempted assault.
This wafer-thin premise sets up the rest of the film’s action, such as it is, which consists of Strickland’s irrational challenge to Campbell for an after school fist fight, and Campbell’s escalating panic and extreme counter measures to avoid being beaten up.
Charlie Day (from TV’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, also directed by Richie Keen), relied on high-pitched or whiny yelling in place of acting, which wore thin very quickly, while his sneaky way of avoiding trouble didn’t endear him either.
Ice Cube fared better, with his inscrutable, intimidating manner well suited to the role of an old fashioned teacher fighting a losing battle to educate his students and instil authority.
Ice Cube featured in one of only two scenes I found genuinely amusing, where students and staff at the school speculate about his past before he was a history teacher, and a montage shows him as possibly a solider in Iraq, a rogue ex-cop, an assassin, or even a world-class pianist. Nobody ever discovers the truth, which makes this the only touch of wry sophistication in the film.
For the most part this wasn’t a style of comedy that I find appealing, as it lacked wit or originality, relying instead on excessive swearing, juvenile sight gags and offensive language for its laughs. Director Richie Keen and the writers had apparently heard about the kind of pranks that are unleashed on long suffering teachers at American schools, including parking a car in the main hallway, or letting a drug-affected horse roam the school corridors (not funny), so included these in this film (although I did find the recurring Mariachi band was an amusing touch).
Tracy Morgan (‘30 Rock’) successfully plays a not very bright coach; Jillian Bell (’22 Jump Street’) was frankly unfunny bordering on repellent as a guidance councillor with drug and sex issues; while it’s a mystery why Christina Hendricks (‘Mad Men’) or Dennis Haysbert (‘24’) lowered themselves to be in this frat-boy outing.
According to interviews, the cast and crew had a lot of fun making this film, but little of that hilarity appears to have ended up on the screen.
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