If you wanted to watch something that’s reminiscent of the multitude of bad 2000s comedies you might catch glimpses of on Comedy Central, like Gigli (2003) and Let’s Go To Prison (2006), then look no further than Fist Fight (2017). The movie is about an English teacher played by Charlie Day who tattles on another teacher played by the perpetually angry Ice Cube for letting his anger go too far with disciplining a student. Ice Cube then challenges Day to a fight to teach him a lesson for snitching and the cowardly Day tries to find a way out of the fight. Although the film boasts an experienced cast with its leads and supporting characters played by Tracey Morgan, Christina Hendricks, and Dean Norris, they unfortunately don’t have the ability to lift up the script’s very flat writing to make it even passably enjoyable.
I don’t think there’s any film that makes you feel more trapped when you’re watching it than a bad comedy. You can’t help but feel uncomfortable when jokes don’t land and bits are so painstakingly forced for a mere chuckle and you have to sit there and endure it. Fist Fight is 91 minutes of this. The likely reason for this, aside from the story and script being written by the minds behind the future Sonic the Hedgehog movie, is director Richie Keen, whose IMDb page most eye-catchingly features 11 episodes of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia since 2012. The movie’s structure feels like an episode of Sunny, with scene after scene being dedicated to bits where the characters frantically ramble back and forth and point out things that are obvious as punchlines. However, what works in a show like Sunny won’t work in a feature length comedy. Charlie Day can’t carry a movie by himself, constantly shouting with his crazy voice and playing off of actors who can’t deliver jokes as strongly as him, and you can’t expect to get the same enjoyment out of those actors trying to do what made Day famous in scenes without him. You especially can’t have scenes written like in a 20-minute sitcom and expect them to move a 91-minute film’s plot forward.
Actually I definitely should address the fact that the writers for this also did the script for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie slated for 2018. Keen definitely could have done more to make Fist Fight less like Sunny, but when he started working on that show it was already very well established and he probably didn’t need to do much. To expect your typecast actors to carry the movie by doing what they normally do is a kiss of death. There’s very little an actor can do with a bad script and an underwritten character. It leads to bland performances, which ruins any immersion by having your audience constantly being aware of the fact that the characters are the actors playing to type. It also leads to tonal inconsistency, which Fist Fight is a terrible perpetrator of. It’s ironic, because the lesson Ice Cube insists on teaching by challenging Day to a fight is that actions have consequences. Humor comes from consequences, so when you’re constantly changing what consequences actually matter you don’t know what to laugh at and what to take seriously. The school is in absolute anarchy due to it being the last day and the serious teachers not really doing anything about it is funny, but this is only in the very beginning of the film. All of the teachers trying to be funny and over the top but maintaining their serious roles is confusing. When the movie tries to be about anything like teacher’s rights it’s very forced and out of nowhere considering this movie also seems to encourage threatening students as an acceptable form of discipline and what is apparently the only thing Charlie Day can do to get respect from his peers and wife. The humor is entirely dependent on how awkward the situations the characters find themselves in are, and none of these characters are well written or likable enough for you to actually feel anything for them. You’re the one who ends up feeling uncomfortable, you have no idea whether these characters do or not.
Fist Fight is just a boring, poorly written movie meant to make money from the names attached to it. This movie rightly flew under the radar; it’s a waste of star talent and is at no point funny. Maybe I wasn’t the right person for this movie since I don’t really like screwball comedies all that much, but Fist Fight didn’t even get that right. Just stay home and watch It’s Always Sunny.