‘Fist Fight’ an in­dul­gence in pre­teen male fan­tasy

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Sandy Cohen

If you like Ice Cube surly and sneer­ing, find pe­nis draw­ings hi­lar­i­ous and be­lieve real men solve prob­lems by throw­ing punches, “Fist Fight “is for you.

This R-rated com­edy from di­rec­tor Richie Keen starts with a ridicu­lous premise: One high-school teacher in­sists that an­other fight him after school to set­tle a pro­fes­sional beef. The open­ing scene fur­ther sets the ju­ve­nile tone, tak­ing just sec­onds to in­tro­duce view­ers to the script’s three fa­vorite words: the F-word, the P-word and the B-word.

Higher learn­ing, this isn’t.

“Fist Fight” is an in­dul­gence in ado­les­cent male fan­tasy, where teach­ers fight and kids rule the school. So it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter that it plays its lead­ing men as car­i­ca­tures and uses sex­ist in­sults through­out. It’s an ab­surd un­der­tak­ing from the start.

Char­lie Day is Andy Camp­bell, a neb­bishy English teacher at Roo­sevelt High School. Cube is Strick­land, a hu­mor­less his­tory teacher who’s car­ry­ing a bat and wear­ing a scowl when we first see him on­screen. It’s the last day of school, and the se­niors are go­ing wild with pranks.

One such prank leads Strick­land to lose his tem­per and he ends up smash­ing a stu­dent’s desk with a hatchet dur­ing class. Be­cause that hap­pens.

Camp­bell points the fin­ger at Strick­land, who’s fired on the spot. That’s when Strick­land chal­lenges Camp­bell to “han­dle our dif­fer­ences like real men” with an after-school fist fight. “Hash­tag teacher­fight,” Strick­land says.

Camp­bell has even more to worry about. His own job is on the line thanks to school bud­get cuts, his wife is about to have their sec­ond child any minute, and his pre-teen daugh­ter is count­ing on him to per­form with her at her el­e­men­tary school’s tal­ent show.

Day is con­vinc­ing as a pa­thetic putz, even as the story gets more and more far­fetched. As es­tab­lished at the out­set, “Fist Fight” is set in the world of the ridicu­lous, so it fol­lows that Camp­bell would go to crazy lengths to avoid the fight with Strick­land, in­clud­ing buy­ing drugs from a stu­dent to plant on his col­league.

Cube’s char­ac­ter, though, isn’t de­vel­oped beyond the snarl. All we know about Strick­land is that he’s an­gry and prone to vi­o­lence.

Could it be that he’s so pas­sion­ate about ed­u­ca­tion? Well, when he tries to jus­tify the fist fight as a way to call at­ten­tion to prob­lems at the school, no­body be­lieves it.

BOB MA­HONEY/WARNER BROS. PIC­TURES VIA AP

This im­age released by Warner Bros. Pic­tures shows Ice Cube, left, and Char­lie Day in a scene from “Fist Fight.”

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