Fist Fight (*) is a forced confrontation

fist fight

Fist Fight – 2017

Director  Richie Keen
Screenplay Van Robichaux,Evan Susser
Starring Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Christina Hendricks, Kumail Nanjiani, Dean Norris

As far as I can tell, this movie exists to show everyone that Ice Cube still has an intimidating frown for people like Charlie Day. Nothing that happens at Roosevelt High School is remotely recognizable to someone who has been in an American high school. This does not matter though, because it’s only happening to finish the job of making Charlie Day’s English teacher seem balanced, relatable and normal.

The excuse that they use for an unrelenting amount of chaos and destruction is that it’s Senior Pranks day. This means porn in the hallway, horses on meth and penises drawn on the chalk board. Charlie is a nice guy, so he puts up with it. Ice Cube is, well…

“I don’t need to be liked. I need to educate.”

Educating means scowling, grimacing, grabbing cell phones and throwing them against the wall. And that is before he attacks the student’s desk with a fireman’s axe. The principal is busy firing whole departments, though, and there is no time for the teacher’s code. The resulting situation pits Cube against Day in the parking lot. After school. With fists.

So at this point, Day’s Cunningham is (finally) distracted. Everyone in the school knows that Cube’s Strickland is going to kick his butt. Then we hear the stories and see flashbacks of Cube beating people in various scenarios.

If I left out any details, it’s mainly because none of them matter. So many decent (and not so decent) actors doing nothing of consequence, it is mind numbing. Bell is there to say even more inappropriate things than she normally does. Tracy Morgan is there to make Day feel even more desperate about his circumstances while he is oblivious to kids making lewd patterns on the lawn. Hendricks is there to be a crazy violent prude. Talk about casting against type. Norris is at once cruel and helpless.

The kids are all living in a plane of existence far above the clueless teachers. They are free to do just about anything to anyone besides Cube. Everything comes up roses for them. Cunningham is desperate to keep his job because he has a wife who is expecting.

On the plus side, there is a nice advertisement for MacBook Pro in the middle of the film. We are made aware that only dumb families don’t have them.

Dumb comedies exist only to set up the next punchline. Every single aspect of the film is a weak excuse to have us see Charlie Day sweat and scream obscenities on the roof. Once in a while we see him repeat himself in class with increasing degrees of frustration. Then we get to see weak joke set ups get muted payoffs further down the line.

If you are Ice Cube, what makes you want to be in a film like this?  It’s a soft touch film with too much swearing to attract the families. He’s asked to make a one liner out of one of his signature works to no effect, and then he’s supposed to make a Charlie Day ass whoopin’ seem believable. Tough sell for a film that is marketed to the 17-22 age range.

This is a lot of words to say a movie is bad.

(* out of *****)

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I Don’t Know How She Does It: Watch if you like your family and your job

I Don’t Know How She Does It – 2011

Directed by Douglas McGrath
Starring
Sarah Jessica Parker, Greg Kinnear, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Munn, Christina Hendricks, Busy Phillips, Kelsey Grammer, Seth Meyers
Written by
Aline Brosh McKenna, based on the book by Allison Pearson

There is a smooth and safe sheen to I Don’t Know How She Does It, even if the film presents itself as a state of the modern married woman with a career.  We know from the first frame how this movie will end up.  The important thing is not always how predictable a movie is.  It is, rather, how you get there.  There are several narrators in this story, but still, it has a strong, seamless message.  Every voice in the story is that of a woman.  Their words are plain, but laced with subtext.  I feel like I am catching just a glimpse of the world my wife lives in, even if it does not take place in Boston.  Just a glimpse, though.

Parker plays Kate Reddy, an interesting play on the name of the singer of “I Am Woman.”  This woman is juggling a successful family life with a burgeoning financial management career.  She has a good friend, Allison (Hendricks), a good co-worker (Munn), a competitive school mother counterpart (Phillips), and a competitive “A-hole” at work (Myers).  At the same time she gets a career opportunity from her boss (Grammer), her husband (Kinnear) is given an equally important opportunity.  This movie is not about how he works with this opportunity, though.  The title does not discuss how “they” do it.  Kinnear does his usual job of being the dedicated dad, who holds things together as his wife’s work success with her new associate (Brosnan) threatens to interfere with it.

The script, written by the writer of  The Devil Wears Prada, Morning Glory and the recently released We Bought A Zoo, is replete with several sharp lines.  The wit is biting, but not cruel, with Hendricks, Phillips and Munn splitting many of the good lines.  The pacing is alternatingly comfortable and frantic, in accordance to the well-traveled plot points.  Sure you’ve seen this before.  It is not often this well done.

Olivia Munn and Christina Hendricks have a brilliant sense of comic timing, to add to their uncommon beauty.  Munn, in particular, takes a throwaway part and makes it delightful and near brilliant.  Brosnan supplies an intriguingly kind and handsome work friend.  The looks between he and Parker tread perilously close to dangerous territory.  A lesser film would have taken them over the line.

Parker, is as good here as I have seen her.  I am not sure she will ever be considered a great actress, but she definitely resonates with people in a way that much more glamorous women do not.  This is an ironic statement for the star of one of the most extravagant shows in entertainment history.  She just seems more at home checking her clothes for stains than sauntering in and out of a walk in closet seeking something to show off for Mr. Big.

Just as I found more out of The Tree of Life than did my wife, …How She Does It resonated more for her than it did for me.  While we both find relief in a movie that emphasizes making good choices in with regard to family life.  If you like decent romantic comedies more, then this one will be for you.

(***1/2 out of *****)