Since the dawn of cinema, violence has been a fertile basis for humor (Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton were the masters of punching and kicking their way to laughter). But if you can remember any of the pranks you pulled in high school or college that didn't get you into legal trouble, you may have the start of a better movie than Fist Fight. If you're sober enough to re-enact those stunts without getting yourself or anyone else hurt, load the video to YouTube immediately so that innocent consumers won't have to waste their cash on this.
Chances are good that you won't have terrific actors like Dean Norris or Tracy Morgan at your disposal, but if you did, you could probably think of better ways to use them than veteran TV director Richie Keen (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) has.
A script has been credited to relative newcomers Van Robichaux and Evan Susser, but there's no sense that much of value is on the page. The storyline feels as if little has progressed since the initial pitch meeting, and the dialogue sounds as if someone pasted expletives in the place of the punctuation marks.
What there is of a story involves Atlanta's Roosevelt High School on the final day of classes before summer. Like legions of seniors before them, this graduating class has gone out of its way to prank every employee in the school. Most outgoing seniors could think of better gags involving genitals than Robichaux and Susser have conceived. Literal running gags involving a horse on meth and a mariachi band get as repetitive and dull as the graffiti decorating Roosevelt High's halls. (Sorry, you can't top the ones in Superbad.)
If dodging silly string and hidden paint cans weren't enough for long-suffering English teacher Andy Campbell (Charlie Day), he's on edge because many of his peers are getting the ax, and history instructor Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube) is in a fouler mood than usual.
After a prank provokes Strickland into causing some property damage of his own, Campbell tries to keep his mouth shut about the incident. But when the principal (Dean Norris) suggests that one of the two teachers will be let go, Campbell snitches on Strickland, who subsequently gets the ax.
Furious about his (justified) dismissal, Strickland challenges meek and scrawny Campbell to meet him in the schoolyard after classes. Knowing Strickland will clobber him instantly, Campbell tries a long series of underhanded strategies to get out of the conflict.
Because Strickland is a violent hothead and Campbell is a weasel, it's impossible to get worked up about the eventual showdown. Campbell has a daughter and a pregnant wife, but he's so craven one wishes on him the comeuppance that we know is eventually arriving for Strickland.
In addition, hearing 8-year-olds cuss like their parents can be funny on South Park, but here it seems that Keen and the screenwriters are incapable of telling the difference between funny and mean.
A long series of outtakes indicates that much of the film depended on ad libs to supplement the meager script.
They really don't help.
MovieStyle on 02/17/2017
Print Headline: Leave me out of it