Monday, March 6, 2017

Fist Fight


Starring: Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Jillian Bell, Tracy Morgan, Dean Norris, Christina Hendricks, Kumail Nanjiani, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Alexa Nisenson

Rated R for Language Throughout, Sexual Content/Nudity, and Drug Material

Things to do instead of watching "Fist Fight:"

1. Listen to Keith Olbermann or Rush Limbaugh (whoever you hate more) on full blast for 90 minutes.

2. Watch your neighbor's colonoscopy.

3. Don't bother in the first place.

These days, I dread comedies.  It's not that I don't like to laugh, I do, but lately they're all about actors improvising the crudest comments they can think of.  This wouldn't be a problem if it were funny, but as "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising" (anything with Seth Rogen, really) and the "Ghostbusters" reboot proved, it usually isn't.  Comedies need scripts and actors need directors.  Someone needs to tell that to the movers and shakers in Hollywood.

It's the last day of school at Roosevelt High.  The staff is facing serious cutbacks, which is making everyone nervous.  No one is more desperate to keep their job than Andy Campbell (Day), a nebbish English teacher with a wife (Swisher) who is due to give birth at any moment.  After an attempt to help Strickland (Cube), a fellow teacher with a fearsome reputation, results in Strickland taking a fire ax to desk, Andy rats him out.  Strickland wants revenge and challenges him to a fist fight at 3 pm.  Wimpy Andy is looking for a way out, but his attempts to avoid it backfire in not-so-funny ways.

What moron thought this was a good idea for a movie?  As a YouTube short from amateur filmmakers?  Doubtful.  As a full-length film made for $20 million and starring the whiny Charlie Day?  Not a chance in hell.  The film has three credited screenwriters (two of whom are credited with writing the story and the screenplay), but judging by the result and the outtakes (none of which are funny, by the way), I doubt much of it was used.  It was just a framework for whatever purpose and abandoned in favor of the actors riffing.  It doesn't work.  This movie still sucks.

Who thought Charlie Day could handle a movie on his own?  His whiny, wimpy, neurotic persona is funny in small doses, but it doesn't take long for him to become akin to fingernails on the blackboard.  He's annoying.  Giving him a bratty kid (Nisenson) who needs him for a talent show does nothing to make him endearing; it only prolongs the already too long running time.  Ice Cube can be very funny ("Anaconda" or "21 Jump Street" are fine examples), but he's given nothing to work with here.  All he's required to do is acting like a anger-prone asshole and look intense.  For a man with such range and talent, it's shameful.  Everyone else is either annoying or boring.  They all deserve each other.  And we deserve a better film for 11 bucks.

Unlike last year's ego trip from the fat ginger with glasses (who doesn't deserve to be listed by name), "Fist Fight" manages a few laughs.  The running joke in the film is that the school is a zoo and the teachers are victims of unending pranks.  Many of these are dumb, but some are clever and one, involving Andy, some paint, and a horse, is hysterical.  Some of the one-liners are funny too.  But that's only when they're kept short.  The stretches between jokes that land are very long (usually five to ten minutes), and those are pretty painful.  There are attempts at some messages that, while honorable (standing up for yourself, the importance of teachers, the corruption that comes with top-down economics), don't have a place here.

My advice?  Wait til someone uploads a "Best Moments from 'Fist Fight'" clip onto YouTube and watch those.  Ignore the rest of it.  You'll thank me later.

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