"Fist Fight," though comedic, highlights important issues in public schools
"Fist Fight" is a comedy about a fight between two male teachers on the last day at a public high school. Charlie Day, known for his role as Charlie in "It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia," plays pushover English teacher Andy Campbell. He is challenged by the aggressive history teacher Ron Strickland, played by Ice Cube. The film follows Andy Campbell’s day leading up to the feared fight. He tries to figure out a way to get out of fighting Ron Strickland, go to a teacher’s meeting where his job is on the line and perform with his daughter at her talent show. The reasons for the fight change over the course of film, as the drama of the last day of school builds.
This movie begins weakly, but progressively gains strength. Charlie Day’s normally high-pitched voice is obnoxious and cliche initially because of how insecure his character is. His over the top insecurity makes it hard for the viewer to take him seriously. Ice Cube is equally as cliche in his role as an aggressive history teacher who seems like the only teacher who can more or less control the students. Ice Cube was typecast as the same intense, belligerent character that he plays in most of his films, which then is also difficult to take seriously. But as Day and Cube relax more into their roles, they prove to hold the comedic value they are known for.
Jillian Bell plays Holly, the school’s guidance counselor, and is one of the funniest characters in the movie. Though she plays the role of a “dumb blonde”, she does so with such enthusiasm that the trope is still very funny. Andy Campbell’s daughter, played by Alexa Nisenson, shines in one of the movie’s funniest moments when she performs a Big Sean song with her dad at her school’s talent show.
While the film is highly comedic, it also aims to highlight a lot of the problems with public schools. The teachers are under significant pressure to perform, yet even with all of the effort they put into their work, the school still plans to fire many of the faculty, seemingly arbitrarily. The principal at one point claims that the administration will instead make cuts from other areas, to which Andy Campbell retorts that cutting the teacher’s resources and expanding class sizes hinders their ability to teach. Ron Strickland also hopes that the fight between these two teachers will help to raise awareness of the absurd pressures placed on teachers, in addition to satisfying his own frustration towards Andy Campbell.
Fist Fight opens in theaters today, Feb. 17.
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