Fist Fight

Posted on February 16, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Preschool
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language throughout, sexual content/nudity and drug material
Profanity: Extremely strong and crude language used by adults, teens, and a child
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drugs and drug dealing by teenager
Violence/ Scariness: Extended comic peril and violence
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: February 17, 2017
Copyright 2017 Warner Brothers

Maybe it’s just here in Washington D.C., but when I saw “Fist Fight,” the biggest laugh from the audience was seeing the name of the executive producer, Steve Mnuchin, who had just been sworn in as the Trump administration’s Secretary of the Treasury. The timing of the movie, with its comic portrayal of an underfunded and wildly dysfunctional public school is uneasily, if inadvertently resonant with the times.

But mostly it is just not very funny. Five writers, including “New Girl” actor Max Greenfield, and a roster of more than a dozen producers, including the two stars, Ice Cube and Charlie Day, could not come up with anything more original than anatomical graffiti, a teacher who takes drugs and want to have sex with students, and a child performing a song with f- and b-words in her school talent show.

The producer/stars play Ron Strickland and Andy Campbell, teachers in a chaotic high school that is even more chaotic than usual because it is the last day before summer vacation. The senior pranks include obscene graffiti in the classroom and on the field, a drugged-up stolen race horse in the halls, the principal’s car covered with paint and left in the school foyer, and (I admit it, this was surreal and funny) a mariachi band trailing the principal for the day.

The students are openly contemptuous of the teachers. So is the administration, which is insisting on re-interviewing each of them to decide whether they will be kept on in their jobs. And poor Campbell, who just want to get along with everyone and impart to his students some of his love for words, has a wife who is about to go into a labor and a daughter who is appearing in the school talent show that afternoon. For some reason, he is performing with her, though she wants to make some last minute changes to the song. Do you think maybe the one she is springing on him has some bad language in it? Yes! Is that something that is inherently hilarious? Not in my opinion.

So, this is about two things: First is Campbell’s constant frustration at trying to do the right thing and the emasculating humiliation heaped on him by everyone when his nice-guy efforts are met with universal contempt. Second is the concept that nice-guy efforts should be met with universal contempt because what matters is the willingness and ability to beat someone up. Even the 911 operator (Kym Whitley) can only laugh when he calls for help.

The movie is filled with funny people. Unfortunately, it is bereft of funny ideas.

Parents should know that this film includes very strong language used by adults, teenagers and a child, drug humor and drug dealing by a teenager, jokes about a sexual predator, graphic sexual graffiti/humor, outrageous pranks, comic violence and peril.

Family discussion: Are Strickland and Campbell good teachers? What do they like about teaching?

If you like this, try: “Three O’Clock High” and “Ride Along”

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