Fist Fight is a loose remake of the 1980’s classic Three O’clock High. Instead of high schoolers Jerry and Buddy squaring off after school, Fist Fight pits two teachers against each other.
Andy (Charlie Day) is a mild mannered, reserved teacher at the disorderly Roosevelt High School. On the last day of school, Andy gets fellow teacher Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube) fired. Upset over what transpired, Mr. Strickland challenges Andy to a fight at 3:00PM.
In the spirit of Three O’clock High, news of the fight spreads quickly around the school as Andy tries anything he can to avoid fighting Mr. Strickland.
R-rated comedies are a tightrope act. There’s a balance of filth and funny that, if used correctly, can help a film get the most from its rating and be legitimately funny. The “filth” in Fist Fight consists of a few inappropriate jokes but most of it can be contributed to language. The language doesn’t play a big part in the funny until the film’s best scene when Alexa Nisenson steals the movie with her talent show performance.
Charlie Day and Ice Cube lead the way as a traditional comedic duo – Ice Cube as the straight man and Charlie Day as the funny man. As amusing as both leads are, the story doesn’t offer any signature moments or jokes.
Flanking them both with funny people – Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Kumail Nanjiani – helps keep the comedy going for most of the film. Even their comedic chops aren’t enough to help the film reach its full potential.
Fist Fight is a film that will make audiences laugh while they watch, but none of the jokes are memorable. Outside of a few catchy jokes, there isn’t much to Fist Fight. The film might as well be named Fast Food – it’s good while you eat it but isn’t really satisfying.
In our current climate, it’s unclear if a film about misbehaving students and out of control teachers is as funny as it was 10 years ago. Edgy jokes and problematic characters will always have a place in comedy. Placing them in a school structure feels like an old Hollywood trope that doesn’t work like it once did. The days of R-rated comedies aren’t dead, but the days of American Pie and Superbad might be coming to an end.