By: Felix Felicis (Four Beers)-
There comes a time in every critic’s life when they have to ask themselves two questions. Why do I keep forgetting where I put my pants (the struggle is real) and what did I do in a past life to deserve this assignment? Considering the February I’ve had (tackling the nuclear dumpster fire of dysfunctional Rom/Com hell Fifty Shades Darker– with Hawk Ripjaw) and now Fist Fight with unlikely comedy duo Charlie Day and Ice Cube, I can only come to the conclusion I must have massacred fifty (or more) fluffy kittens in a past life. Because when I think buddy comedy, I *think Ice Cube and Charlie Day (*if you ask me when I’m blackout drunk MAYBE). You must be moderately intoxicated to ride this mediocre attempt at comedy in theaters worldwide.
The concept is right there in the title; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or sitting Cheeto of a President to figure it out. Mild-mannered teacher Andy aka Charlie Day is just trying to survive the last day of the school year in order to make it to his daughter’s dance recital and attend the birth of his second child when he becomes caught up in the vortex of angry black man, I mean Ice Cube’s, righteously aggrieved fellow teacher Strickland as he goes postal on a student’s desk with an axe causing events to spiral out of control on an *epic (*completely preposterous and entirely unbelievable) level resulting in a duel-like invitation to, you guessed it, fight after school to settle their differences. Somebody wake me up when we get to something in the plot that’s original.
Taken in a series of micro-vignettes there was some (entirely predictable but still enjoyable) humor here. Much like mining for gold or altruism in the Kardashian Clan, you’re able to find bits of gold hidden throughout. Horse on homemade meth is my hero and preferred pick for 2020 presidential candidate. Though he was only in two scenes, horse on homemade meth stole the show. The most success that Fist Fight had was in pitting the teachers against the students and would’ve been closer to a home run by dumping the preachy-soapboxed-teachers-are-underappreciated repetitive rhetoric of a morality storyline. I absolutely personally agree, but show me on the doll where a screwball rated-R comedy had a causal link to societal change and I’ll eat vegan for a week.
While not as bad as the black-hole-sized lack of chemistry between Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades Darker, Charlie Day and Ice Cube were not a match made in heaven. Or even a match made in whatever purgatory the cast of Twilight lives in. Ice Cube is amazing(ly) bad in the xXx franchise and hams it up with the best of ’em (even taking into account that when given words longer than two syllables he sounds like he’s gargling a mouth full of rocks), but somehow falls flat when interacting with human car-dealership-inflatable-balloon-jack-in-the-box Charlie Day. If someone were ever going to be reincarnated as a human exclamation point, it’s Charlie Day. Whatever the reason, Fist Fight is at its weakest with these two onscreen together (with the possible slight exception of the final fight).
Even taking into account the especially low bar with which I went in to judge Fist Fight, I still couldn’t throw my leg over some of the narrative and logistical hurdles they kept throwing at us (including willing suspension of disbelief on full blast). This movie lived in some kind of alternative universe where it could plead the case of overworked and underpaid teachers (a sad reality) in the same breath as teachers who can attack a desk with an axe in a classroom setting to a sexually predatory, wildly incompetent guidance counselor to gross negligence on the part of 911 operators to a world in which a parent/child expletive-filled talent show act would get one syllable beyond the first “bitch” before being shut down harder than your average bro at last call.
That’s not even taking into account the insanely homicidal eye candy Christina Hendricks aka Ms. Monet who’d give even Dexter a run for his money. The ensemble cast as a whole had the most difficulty gelling cohesively at any given moment (don’t even get me started on Tracy Morgan who’s rapidly approaching Danny Glover levels of “he’s still alive?!?” whenever I see him in a movie) and I’m not saying an R-rated comedy isn’t fully entitled to such hijinks, but it just doesn’t graft on to a large part of the rest of the bland, stand up for yourself life lesson Fist Fight seems hell-bent on jamming down your throat. Cluster, meet fuck.
Speaking of grafts, Fist Fight seemed to be trying to splice two incompatible narratives together with all the success of Dr. Frankenstein on meth (not to be confused with the film’s folk hero, horse on homemade meth) and we were left with largely clunky, oftentimes bipolar tonal shifts between expletive-dropping lewd and crude escapades and saccharinely sweet family-first moments. FOR FUCK’S SAKE, PICK A LANE AND STICK WITH IT, FIST FIGHT. Hawk Ripjaw had the theory that Fist Fight started out life as a PG13 flick and was suddenly upgraded to an R-rating leaving the screenwriters no choice but to throw in as many f-bombs as possible sandwiched in-between a largely useless family-oriented focus. It was clunky. It was jarringly obvious. And it completely robbed Fist Fight of momentum every time it seemed to be picking up steam. Congratulations. This movie was basically my mother at any family gathering or holiday dinner asking me what I’m doing with my life.
Fist Fight is a first date that you fist bump at the end and never call again. You might laugh once or twice but you’re NOT bringing this one home to meet mom (or even your favorite potted plant).
Fist Fight (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Ice Cube starts to have a meltdown.
Do a Shot: for horse on homemade meth.
Take a Drink: whenever there’s a #TeacherFight
Take a Sip: for each prank or attempt to escape the fight.
Shotgun Your Beer: when’s school’s out for the summer.
Extra Credit: for sticking around to spot the post credits scenes.