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Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 12:04 am

Long trudge dooms Fight

Charlie Day and Ice Cube in Fist Fight.

 

“I had a thought as I was being dragged down the stairs by that horse on meth.”

The circumstances surrounding the way in which the above piece of dialogue was delivered had me laughing much harder than I have in quite some time. However, the single witty turn of an odd phrase does not a complete movie make, and unfortunately this is one of only a very few effective moments in the dismal exercise in comedy that is Fist Fight.

Containing a premise you’d have to stretch to fill a half-hour sitcom, the feature film debut of TV director Richie Keen has an episodic nature, and not in a good way. Padded with one nonsensical scene after another simply to get it up to feature length, the movie is a meandering trip from one inane moment to the next until we finally reach the titular conflict which, truth be told, ain’t half bad.

There’s a great deal of turmoil in Andy Campbell’s (Charlie Day) life. His pregnant wife is past her due date and it’s the last day of the year at the high school where he teaches. A great purge is happening there as the principal (Dean Norris) is holding interviews with his entire staff and is rumored to be ready to fire whole departments due to the overall lack of performance by the student body. It also happens to be senior prank day – thus the wandering, drugged out horse – and Campbell has no idea what might meet him around every corner.

One of his co-workers, history teacher Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube), is the very embodiment of intimidation, creating fear not simply in his students but in his peers as well. As a result, he’s the only one with a classroom that isn’t in chaos, but that doesn’t prevent him from being the victim of a prank witnessed by Campbell. This sets in motion a chain of events that forces him to get Strickland fired, which prompts the aggrieved to challenge his former co-worker to a fist fight after school.

All of this occurs in the first 20 minutes of the movie, and from there until the final 15 minutes we’re forced to endure one time-wasting sequence after another. Campbell must have the lightest schedule for an English teacher in the history of public education, as he’s able to leave the building repeatedly between classes to run to the computer store to purchase a laptop he’s being blackmailed into buying, run in to his wife and daughter for an awkward meeting, and then take off to help at his little girl’s talent show. This guy spends more time out of class than in, which also leads to him being able to buy drugs to plant in Strickland’s room. A visit from the cops and a trip to jail ensue which results in the busiest day I’ve ever seen.

Along the way, the characters do nothing more than get on your nerves. Day’s whiny, perpetually bumbling act gets old fast as does his stammering high-pitched voice, while Mr. Cube’s perpetual scowl is used far past its expiration date. Jillian Bell’s counselor Holly, nothing more than a drug-addled pedophile on the make, is disturbing rather than funny while the inclusion of Rubenesque bombshell Christina Hendricks as a troubled French teacher is a one-note joke that never really connects.

A scene at an elementary school talent show is genuinely funny while the final throwdown is well done. When Strickland’s motivation behind challenging his obviously weaker opponent is revealed, it provides a much needed sense of sanity. However, it’s all much too little and much too late as the undercard leading up to this main event had me thinking of throwing in the towel long before the first punch was landed.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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