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Temperamental teacher challenges nerdy colleague to duel in ‘Fist Fight’

Kam Williams | 2/24/2017, 6 a.m.
Fist Fight is a kitchen sink comedy that revolves around the showdown between a high school’s intimidating history teacher and ...
Ice Cube (left) and Charlie Day star in the Warner Brothers Pictures film “Fist Fight.” Photo: Warner Brothers Pictures

Do you remember how, when you were growing up, if a couple of classmates came to blows on the schoolyard, they would be quickly separated with the suggestion that they settle their differences off campus at the end of the day? That was the point of departure of “Three O’Clock High,” a 1987 comedy about a bully with a short fuse who challenges a mild-mannered milquetoast to a duel after school.

Ice Cube in a scene from “Fist Fight.”

Ice Cube in a scene from “Fist Fight.”

At a glance

The verdict: Good (2 stars)

Rated: R for sexuality, nudity, drug use and pervasive profanity

Running time: 91 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures

To see a trailer for “Fist Fight,” visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aIzXYo6VCE

Ostensibly inspired by that teensploitation classic, “Fist Fight” is a slight variation on the theme, flipping the script by having a couple of teachers squaring off instead of students. Otherwise, the basic idea remains intact.

The movie co-stars Ice Cube and Charlie Day as Ron Strickland and Andy Campbell,

respectively, colleagues at Roosevelt High. Intimidating history teacher Ron cuts a sharp contrast to nerdy English teacher Andy, and much of the humor revolves around their difference in temperament.

The action unfolds on the last day of school, which is when we find seniors running amok and pulling a variety of outrageous pranks like kicking the spout off a water cooler and rocking the ineffective security guard’s (Kumail Nanjiani) golf cart while he’s still sitting in it. Despite the insanity, the faculty is doing its best to maintain decorum.

Nevertheless, Andy’s lesson on why words matter is interrupted by the antics of class clowns. He’s able to handle the disruption far better than Ron, who proceeds to blow his cork.

Fight buildup

The plot thickens when both teachers are summoned to Principal Tyler’s (Dean Norris) office to explain why Ron chopped a disrespectful pupil’s desk in half with an ax. The upshot of the meeting is that Ron loses his job because of Andy, so he challenges him to a fight after school. Consequently, fraidy-cat Andy spends the rest of the afternoon trying to find a way to avoid the confrontation.

Too bad the ensuing buildup to the big showdown between the adversaries proves to be

less entertaining than the promising premise. The two share few funny moments following the setup. Luckily, this kitchen sink comedy continues to deliver, courtesy of such student stunts as hiring a mariachi band to follow the principal around the halls.

The movie marks the feature film debut of actor-turned-director Richie Keen, who also makes a cameo appearance as a computer store employee. And the supporting cast includes the scene-stealing Tracy Morgan whose quirky trademark mannerisms are put on full display.

Note that “Fist Fight” is a relentlessly-profane romp that may have set a record for the use of the F-word. Since the closing tableau sets up the sequel, might I suggest that the next installment cut down on the curses in favor of more jokes.