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Fist Fight Movie Review

Fist Fight: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD cover art
Fist Fight is now available on home video. Read our review of the Blu-ray combo pack.

Fist Fight (2017) movie poster Fist Fight

Theatrical Release: February 17, 2017 / Running Time: 91 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Richie Keen / Writers: Van Robichaux, Evan Susser (story & screenplay); Max Greenfield (story)

Cast: Charlie Day (Andy Campbell), Ice Cube (Ron Strickland), Tracy Morgan (Coach Crawford), Jillian Bell (Holly), Dean Norris (Principal Tyler), Christina Hendricks (Ms. Monet), Kumail Nanjiani (Mehar), Dennis Haysbert (Superintendent Johnson), Joanna Garcia Swisher (Maggie Campbell), Alexa Nisenson (Ally Campbell), Stephnie Weir (Suzie), Kym E. Whitley (911 Operator), Austin Zajur (Neil), Gordon Danniels (Irv)

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Charlie Day completes his rise to movie star in Fist Fight. Sure, he may be second on the poster and share diagonal billing in the end credits with Ice Cube, a proven draw in two-handed comedies.
But the show belongs to Day, who is clear protagonist and appears in every single scene.

Day plays Andy Campbell, an English teacher in a public high school. It is the last day of the school year, a day that brings a host of senior pranks as well as a number of layoffs for the staff. Andy, who has a wife (Joanna Garcia Swisher) who's ready to push out child number two, is on edge about his uncertain employment status. His attempt to help feared history teacher Ron Strickland (Cube) with an A/V issue reveals another senior prank, this one provoking an over-the-top response from Ron. Both are called into the principal's (Dean Norris) office and asked to give an account of what happened. To save his own job, Andy lays the blame on Ron, who is given his walking papers.

But as you can surmise from the title or a one-line synopsis, Ron challenges Andy to a fist fight out in the parking lot after school at 3 PM. The challenge goes viral as Andy scrambles to either get out of the scheduled fisticuffs or prepare for it a little bit.

Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) gets his fellow teacher Ron Strickland (Ice Cube) fired, prompting a challenge to a "Fist Fight."

Those with a knowledge of comedy cinema may be quick to point out that the premise of Fist Fight is highly reminiscent of two films: the 1987 high school comedy Three O'Clock High and the 2001
Tim Allen flop Joe Somebody. In both movies, a bully challenges a clear underdog to a public battle. Three O'Clock High is pretty fun in an '80s teen movie kind of way. Joe Somebody is pretty terrible in an I-love-you-Tim-Allen-but-no kind of way. Fist Fight probably falls in between the two in quality.

It is not the barrel of laughs you might like it to be, but Day certainly makes for a compelling comic hero, as he has proven as the standout of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" (from which TV-seasoned director Richie Keen also hails), the Horrible Bosses movies, and even in the voice cast of Monsters University. He is by far the best thing about Fist Fight, even when he comes close to doing the unthinkable and (almost) playing the straight man.

Cube is Cube, the one-note intimidating presence supposed to instill fear in all those around him, but especially Andy. You can probably read into the film's racial depictions and I have no doubt that some will. But that would require a deeper reading into the film than is warranted. This is a February comedy from Van Robichaux and Evan Susser, two young novice screenwriters who have already landed some potentially big follow-up gigs (a Sonic the Hedgehog movie and a Wedding Crashers sequel that I'll believe when I see). They share story credit with actor Max Greenfield ("New Girl"), also making his writing debut. The writers try to inject some social commentary and a moral regarding the education system, but who would take any of that seriously in a film filled with phallic drawings whose secondary show-stopper is having Andy's young daughter performing far more of a profane Big Sean diss track than any elementary school assembly would allow? That rap performance drew bigger laughs at my screening than anything else in the movie. This is a film the general moviegoing public will enjoy more than my fellow critics. But neither group is likely to love it and I would be surprised if it wasn't a commercial disappointment even with its presumably modest budget.

Other characters include a meth-using teacher (Jillian Bell of "Workaholics") who dreams of making love to a student, an inefficient security guard (Kumail Nanjiani), a buttoned-down teacher with a dark side (an out of place Christina Hendricks) and a coach (Tracy Morgan) who buys skinny jeans in an effort to save his job.

Fist Fight is never subtle or smart. It's never painful, but it's never quite as diverting as you hope it would be.

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Fist Fight (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
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Reviewed February 17, 2017.

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