★ ★ ★
“Fist Fight” is a vulgar teen comedy, like “Porky’s” only with 1000% more jokes about penises, masturbation and sex. Then there’s the bad language that completely outpaces f-word aficionados Tarantino and Scorsese combined. Grandma won’t like this loose remake of the 1987 teen comedy “Three O'Clock High,” but anyone who’s ever dreamed of a raunchy version of “Revenge of the Nerds” should find a laugh or two here.
It’s the end of the semester at the rough-‘n-tumble Roosevelt High School, the kind of school where teachers complain the students are unteachable and the guidance counselor smokes crack to cope with the chaos. To compound matters, it’s Prank Day. That means strategically placed paint bombs, a horse, high on meth, roaming the halls and other mean spirited and dangerous hijinks.
Trying to get through the day are Andy Campbell (Charlie Day), a well-meaning English teacher and Ron Strickland (Ice Cube), the world’s toughest history teacher. Between the student shenanigans and budget cuts that threaten everyone’s jobs, tensions run high. When Campbell accidentally gets Strickland fired a bad day goes from crappy to craptastic. “I'm going to fight you,” says the amped up Strickland looking for some street justice. “After school meet me in the parking lot and we'll handle this.”
The mild-mannered Campbell has never been in a fight but knows he can’t back down. As the #teacherfight spreads across social media a crowd gathers in the parking lot to witness the carnage. Before the fight begins, however, Campbell has a few things to take care of, including dancing with his daughter at a talent show.
“Fist Fight” is an anything-goes comedy that softens nears the end to deliver a few knockout punches on bullying, school budget cuts and doing the right thing. The messaging gets lost amid the mile-a-minute gags but its there if you squint your eyes and look very closely.
Not that the movie is much interested in anything but the laughs. It tries hard—almost too hard—to get a giggle out of the viewer, carpet bombing the audience with jokes, only about half of which land. Ten-year-old Alexa Nisenson nearly steals the show with a no-holds barred rendition of a Big Sean song. It’s wrong, completely wrong, but her message to a school bully is undeniable and joyful even if it turns the air at the junior high talent show blue. Also, it’s great to see Tracy Morgan back in action after his car accident.
Most of the heavy listing lands on the backs of Day and Cube. It’s funny to hear Ice Cube seamlessly work in the title of his most famous song into a gag and Day brings a certain kind of Don Knotts charm to the role of the mild-mannered man who finds his inner gumption. They both deliver laughs, but many are of the oh-no-he-didn’t variety rather than deep belly laughs.
“Fist Fight” doesn’t lack punch, but many of the jokes feel like open handed slaps than direct hits.