Teaching is a noble profession. Dedicated men and women devote their lives to educate our children in hopes that those children will one day grow up to make the world a better place. It is often a thankless job, and the rewards are few, but those dedicated few who push through believe in a better world, and know, deep in their hearts, that they are making a difference. The new movie Fist Fight shows us what happens when the exact opposite occurs. This film highlights the consequences of teacher shortages, poor pay, long hours, and an administration that just doesn’t care. Did I mention this is a comedy?
Fist Fight stars Charlie Day and Ice Cube as two teachers in a Georgia high school during the annual Senior Prank day/last day of school. Andy Campbell (Day) is a dedicated father and husband, and an english teacher who tries to teach Shakespeare and Yeats to kids who would rather learn about Beyonce and Kanye West. On the other side of campus is Ron Strickland (Cube), who teaches history, is a Civil War buff, and is at the very end of his straw. Strickland has all but given up, as the school year is winding down, and with the inmates running the asylum in the form of seniors pulling lewd and property-damaging pranks, Strickland is well past his boiling point.
A violent confrontation with a student, which happens to be witnessed by Andy, leads both men to a meeting with Principal Tyler (Dean Norris), and with jobs on the line, Andy rats out Strickland. Now out of a job, Strickland wants to make Andy pay for ratting him out and he challenges the english teacher to an old school fist fight after school in the parking lot. Andy then spends the majority of Fist Fight finding ways to get out of the fight. With his retinue of the school’s guidance counselor Holly (Jillian Bell), and Coach Crawford (Tracy Morgan), Andy runs the entire spectrum of options including bribery, instigation, and ultimately, acceptance that he will have to put up or shut up.
Fist Fight relies on some very bawdy, adult humor for its laughs, and the script by Van Robichaux and Evan Susser, based off a story by the two and Max Greenfield (New Girl), knows what notes to hit to make us laugh. The absurdity of it all wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t some very inconvenient truths at play here. Amidst all the jokes and violence and sexual innuendo, there is some social commentary about the state of the American public school teacher. It’s something that stuck in the back of my head as I laughed and laughed, and for every laugh, I wondered if my friends and family, including my little sister, who are teachers, go through the same things that Andy and Strickland were going through here, sans the fisticuffs.
The performances in Fist Fight are solid, with Day and Cube playing off each other perfectly, and the supporting cast of Bell, Morgan, Norris, and Christina Hendricks, who plays a french language teacher, and Kumail Nanjani as the school’s security guard, really create the most laughs. It’s also interesting to watch as Day’s Andy evolves from a spineless peacemaker in the beginning of the film, to an angry, hardened fighter by the end. It’s a natural evolution, and director Richie Keen handles it well. The main characters are all changed by the end of the film, and Fist Fight, again, while an adult comedy, has a unique heart and soul to it, which separates it from other adult comedies.
In this day and age, where our leaders communicate by social media, and the fate of the world seems so gloomy, Fist Fight is a perfect movie to escape all of that, even with its veiled social commentary and messages. Sometimes, it’s just good to laugh out loud and not worry about real-world things, and Fist Fight gives us that opportunity. I know I laughed long at hard at so many things in this film, and I appreciated that it allowed me to do that. I can worry about my little sister and her job as an english teacher another time.
Fist Fight is rated R and is in theaters on February 17.
TheHDRoom may be paid a small commission for any services or products ordered through select links on this page.