I know a lot of people love Charlie Day on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," but his Charlie Kelly character usually gets on my nerves. I actually do like Ice Cube, so I hoped the Cube/Day pairing in Fist Fight might offer some laughs. It does not, sadly, and Richie Keen's film fails to capitalize on its leads or supporting cast members Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell or Christina Hendricks. This is a series of vaguely related sketches stretched across a movie without motivation or drive. When Day's politically correct high school teacher accidentally gets Cube's no-BS, livewire educator fired, the latter challenges his scrawny, bumbling co-worker to a fight. Fist Fight is a comedy unsure of its own premise and unwilling to commit to bawdy, R-rated humor; instead the movie spins its wheels with out-of-place family drama and misguided virtues. Day is nasally and irritating, and Cube looks as bored as his character. Comedy gold this is not.
To say this movie has a plot is somewhat of an overstatement. The above rundown is it. The film opens on the last days of class at a high school. Andy Campbell's (Day) students do not respect him, and instead draw penises on his white board. Cube's Strickland is all out fucks to give for the year, and goes nuts on a student's desk with an axe when the student cuts up in class. Unfortunately for him, the incompetent administration is looking to save money, and each teacher is facing the review committee. Andy's wife (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) is pregnant, and he absolutely cannot get fired. After a senior prank goes awry, Andy narcs on Strickland to save his own hide. Strickland gets the can and immediately seeks out Andy to challenge him to a bare-knuckle fist fight outside of school. Bystanders include an inappropriately sexual female teacher (Bell) and a second inappropriately flirty, buxom female teacher (Hendricks).
Much of Fist Fight feels like improvisation. That's fine, as Day and Cube should be good at this brand of comedy. Director Keen worked with Day on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," so there is no excuse for the lack of laughs in this movie. This narrative might have worked as a quick "Saturday Night Live" sketch, but the material is stretched to its breaking point over 91 minutes. Diversions include a trip to Andy's daughter's (Alexa Nisenson) school talent show, where, instead of a tune from "Rent," daddy and daughter rap to Big Sean's "I Don't Fuck With You," a kiss-off to a school bully. See, Andy is both a terrible and a supporting parent. We also see Morgan, as a lazy coach, embarrassing himself in one of his first roles since his near-fatal 2014 traffic accident. You deserve more, Mr. Morgan.
Since Fist Fight is not really a cohesive movie, it is difficult to critique. The cast and crew know they are not making high art, but they also phone the whole thing in. Why is Cube, who has actually improved to a decent actor of late, content to play the generically angry black man? And why do Bell and Day continue to play the exact same characters in every show and movie they make? As my college buddy always says, "Why anything?" I've already seen people posting clips from Fist Fight on Facebook, so there is obviously an audience for this. Maybe I'm just a grouch. This is not a movie; this is a YouTube reel of pratfalls with talented actors scraping the bottom of the barrel. Class dismissed.
The movie sucks, but the 1.78:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is superb. Shot digitally, Fist Fight bows on Blu-ray with an exceptionally sharp and clear image. Colors are bold and perfectly saturated, skin tones are accurate and texture is off the charts. Fine-object detail is abundant in the brightly light outdoor scenes and colorful indoor shots. Blacks are inky, and, while most scenes are brightly lit, shadow detail is impressive. In a time when classics receive less-than-impressive transfers, it is difficult to stomach Fist Fight looking this good.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is also impressive. There is a fair bit of dimensionality here, and the surrounds support ambient and action effects. Dialogue is clear and without distortion, and the pop-music soundtrack is integrated appropriately. The disc also includes French, Spanish, Portuguese and English 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks, as well as a host of subtitle options.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy and an UltraViolet HD digital copy. The discs come in an eco-case that is wrapped in a slipcover. Extras include Eleven Deleted Scenes (15:23/HD) and a Georgia Film Commission Short Film (2:08/HD).
The comedy of Fist Fight does not land a knockout punch, despite the talents of Ice Cube and Charlie Day. This improvisation-heavy material is less a movie than a YouTube reel of pratfalls. Skip It.