My friend made a good point while we were watching this: who says “fist fight?” That’s not a thing that is organically said by normal humans.
“Fist Fight” stars Ice Cube and Charlie Day as teachers at a high school who plan on fighting each other after one of them gets fired on the last day of school. Christina Hendricks, Jillian Bell and Tracy Morgan also star as Richie Keen directs.
Comedies released outside of the summer season have a track record of being not very good. Whether it’s January (the “Ride Along” films, also starring Mr. Cube), April (last year’s “Keanu,” one of the least funny films I have seen in quite a while) or Christmas (“Daddy’s Home” and “Why Him?”), studios clearly like to keep their prime comedies for when kids are out of school and snow is off the roads. So it shouldn’t be a big surprise that “Fist Fight,” despite all the talent involved, is a lazy mess that has less laughs than an episode of “It’s Always Sunny” but lasts three times as long.
Charlie Day is typecast at this point as shrieking and hyperactive but to his credit he is a little toned-down here. He still has his panic attacks but they’re far, few and in between, and he manages to get a few chuckles when they do spring up. As I’ve written in both my “Ride Along” reviews I find something oddly hilarious about Ice Cube growling, so the first time he showed up on screen here I couldn’t help but laugh. However he isn’t given too much to do after the opening scene, and he and Day have almost no chemistry together.
One could argue that they’re adversaries so naturally they wouldn’t have chemistry, but if you look at any (successful) James Bond or Avengers film even the hero and the villain have some sort of back-and-forth and screen presence; here the two are mainly just reciting lines (or doing very awkward improv) to each other.
And while we’re on the subject of these characters, they obviously imply that Day is supposed to be our main character and protagonist–they even give him a pregnant wife and young daughter so we know he’s relatable!–but he is so slimy and unlikable that you find yourself rooting for Ice Cube’s cookie-cutter strict teacher to beat him in the fight (oh, and his character’s name is Mr. Strickland, in case you wanted your head to be sore from being beaten over the head with analogies).
There are a few fleeting bright spots sprinkled throughout “Fist Fight” but most of the time you actually feel guilty about laughing at them. Day’s pre-teen daughter (Alexa Nisenson) is by-and-far the best part of the film for reasons I won’t spoil, but not only is she a kid actor who isn’t awful she actually left me wanting to see more from this young actress. The titular fight sequence is also entertaining in a ludicrous, random sort of way, but by that point in the film you’ve almost forgotten about the showdown altogether and just want to go home.
“Fist Fight” is the sort of film that mistakes a penis joke or f-bomb in every other sentence as comedy, and thinks that letting actors improv nearly all their lines will inevitably lead to something funny. However that ruins the flow of the film and creates an unfunny experience that is about as entertaining as getting kicked between the legs.
Critics Rating: 3/10