'Fist Fight' Review: Charlie Day's Hero's Journey from Mouse to Man
Director Richie Keen’s examination of manhoood, Fist Fight, concerns the hero’s journey of high-school English teacher, Andy Campbell (Charlie Day). Andy Campbell embarks upon his last day of the school year as a weak-willed “pussy” — as he is often referred — who can neither stand up for himself, his colleagues, or his family. He’s a pushover who — like others on the high-school faculty, including a female teacher played by Jillian Bell, who desires to fornicate with her students — is in danger of losing his esteemed position due to the budgetary constraints placed upon our public education system by the so-called “man.” Meanwhile, he is also the victim of a number of senior pranks, including one in which a horse juiced up on methylamphetamine drags Mr. Campbell by a rope through the corridors of his high school as a number of paint cans connected to trip wires blasts him in the face and body.
The day begins to take a turn, however, when Mr. Campbell is asked by a fellow teacher, Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube), to assist him with a malfunctioning video cassette recorder (VCR). Mr. Campbell soon realizes, however, that the “malfunction” is a ruse; indeed, it is another instance of a student pranking his teacher. What scalawags!
Mr. Strickland does not take kindly to such shenanigans. Indeed, rather than mediative measures, Mr. Strickland fetches an axe and destroys the student’s work desk, splintering it with the sharp, thin head of the axe blade. The student, in turn, informs the principal (Dean Norris), and when Mr. Campbell confirms the student’s story, instead of covering for his fellow man, Mr. Strickland challenges an over-matched Mr. Campbell to fisticuffs after school.
It is at this moment that the soul of our hero awakens. At first, Mr. Campbell finds himself attempting to avoid conflict with a much larger man than he, but over the course of the day, as he continues to be pushed around, humiliated, and threatened, Mr. Campbell’s second testicle drops. By the end of the day in question, he’s not only willing to fight his fellow teacher, but he relishes the challenge.
Mr. Campbell has learned how to be a man, and being a man means that if one cannot avoid conflict, or thwart conflict by planting drugs on one’s opponent, or run from conflict because conflict will always chase you down, then one must confront conflict head on. One must take a punch for the greater good, so that Mr. Campbell can be an inspiration to us all. So that, in the end, we can all leave our cineplexes with a hop in our step and a thirst for violence as the blooper reel plays us out into our suburban parking lots where we, too, may be given the opportunity to take and/or throw a punch to better ourselves as men.
Yes, yes, but dear critic, you ask! Is this movie, Fist Fight, worthy of our time and financial resources? Will we find amusement in the unfolding journey of Mr. Campbell as we masticate upon our popping corn and drink carbonated beverages from our plastic straws?
No, not really. Save for the last 15 minutes or so, it’s not a very good movie. Charlie Day is completely wasted as a straight man, the writing is subpar, and the contrived situations extract very few laughs. Mostly, it’s 75 minutes of waiting around for Charlie Day to become “Charlie Day,” and when he finally does, it fails to live up to our expectations. It’s a C- comedy that not even Ice Cube’s perpetual scowl or Jillian Bell’s attempts to steal scenes can salvage. Skip it.
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