The promised spectacle of two teachers planning a brawl is actually the least of the problems for the high school depicted in “Fist Fight.” The place is a hive of depravity long before the instructors get after each other.
This is one of the many annoying things perpetrated by this movie, which has a one-joke premise stretched across 91 minutes. No passing grade handed out here, folks.
At least it has the frantic energy of Charlie Day at its center. The high-pitched “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” star plays a beleaguered teacher trying to survive the last day of the school year, when Senior Prank Day is at its zenith and the administration is chopping jobs.
As if that weren’t enough, he gets on the wrong side of a perpetually angry teacher (Ice Cube) who demands they meet on the school grounds at 3 p.m. that day for a throw-down.
This doesn’t make a lot of sense. Unlike the playground donnybrook scheduled in the 1987 non-classic “Three O’Clock High,” which pitted a nerd against the school bully, this fight would make both participants unemployable.
In matching the diminutive Day against the formidable size of Ice Cube, director Richie Keen at least has an automatic sight gag going. The two ought to share more scenes, actually (one sequence that puts both of them in jail — don’t ask — has a few genuinely funny bits).
Day has a colleague who provides a sympathetic ear but also hugely inappropriate ideas about teacher-student relations. It’s the kind of role that used to go to Melissa McCarthy or Amy Schumer, and here Jillian Bell, who ran away with an opportunity in “22 Jump Street,” has some fun with it.
We also have Christina Hendricks, “Breaking Bad” guy Dean Norris as the hyperventilating principal, and Tracy Morgan as a PE coach. Good to see Morgan back in silly form after his serious 2014 auto accident.
“Fist Fight” is one of those movies where everybody hits their marks and some of the line readings are clever and everything is generally professionally done. It just doesn’t seem particularly inspired, especially by comparison to the kind of rapid-fire, character-oriented comedy you can find on TV.
“Fist Fight” (2 stars)
Two teachers will fight at the end of the last day of the school year in this spotty comedy. The contrast between Charlie Day and Ice Cube at least provides a decent sight gag to push along this one-joke effort.
Rating: R, for language, violence, subject matter
Showing: Alderwood, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Pacific Place, Thornton Place Stadium, Woodinville