Don’t knock 'Fist Fight' for being a rude and crude high-school comedy – there’s a proud tradition of those, from 'Superbad' and 'American Pie' all the way back to 'Porky’s'. Knock it for other reasons. Knock it for manic actor Charlie Day, playing a weak-spined, panicky English teacher. He's way too shrill to hold a feature film; his high-pitched squeal is a year’s supply of nails on a blackboard. Knock it for ogling 'Mad Men'’s Christina Hendricks as she sashays down the hallway, yet another desirable French teacher.
But mostly, knock it for reducing Ice Cube to the tired sneer he’s been successfully avoiding in recent films, especially last year’s 'Barbershop: The Next Cut'. Playing a furious educator prone to smashing desks with an axe, Cube starts out crazy and only gets bigger. After his character is fired, he challenges Day’s tattle-tale wimp to an after-school slugfest in the parking lot, one that gets its own hashtag from the amused students (#TeacherFight). The fact that 'Fist Fight' actually does climax with a bruising, tonally awkward punch-up between the two men feels like a failure of imagination.
There are incidental pleasures to be had here. For all of the movie’s lazy penis jokes (a curriculum's worth), its screenplay actually manages to smuggle in a sincere comment about America’s crumbling, underfunded public schools. 'Fist Fight' might be seen as a timely nightmare – not about bullying but being downsized. For that reason alone, it’s not a complete waste of time. Also it features a rampaging horse on meth. You’ve got to keep the base satisfied.