Ice Cube talks Atlanta, new movie

Our Movie Man Sam Hallenbeck talked with Ice Cube star of the new movie 'Fist Fight.'

So by the time [director] Richie Keen came on and Charlie and Ice Cube were down in Atlanta, I was shooting New Girl and was kind of watching and was like, "Oh my god, they're doing so much of a better job than I ever could". That's all, folks. A few amusing moments here and there, but not much else. The two worked together previously on television's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, on which Day is a main character and Keen directed a number of episodes from 2012 to 2015.

You can glean some of this from the "Horrible Bosses" movies, too.

The two pugilists in question are Mr. Campbell (Charlie Day), a whiny English teacher, and Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube), a no-nonsense history teacher who is a more unhinged version of "Lean on Me's" baseball-bat-toting Joe Clark. He's found a nice niche for himself in a genre that has, surprisingly, produced more hits than misses for the rapper-turned-actor. It's the last day of school, and the seniors are going wild with pranks.

With a couple of exceptions, that is. It's the place bad high school teachers are sent after death to experience, along with everyone who goes to see this film.

Almost all of the humor in the buildup to the fight is broad and ugly - and then it gets much, much worse.

Andy is especially nervous. But Tracy Morgan's goofy gym teacher is improvisationally flabby; Christina Hendricks's promising, hip-swiveling French teacher is erratically scripted; and Bell's character is more clueless about excess than Cube's rage case.

Ah, schoolyard dustups. Always such a monumental buildup; more often than not just a lot of youthful hot air.

The only natural effect in a movie such as this is for Strickland to challenge Andy to a good old-fashioned fist fight after school. Fist Fight isn't as bad as something like Dinner for Schmucks, which ultimately wants its cake and to eat it, too, with its condemnation of a group of guys who publicly mock odd individuals they've wrangled together being in contradiction to the fact that movie itself means for the audience to laugh at those eccentric characters.

Screenwriters Van Robichaux and Evan Susser try to make a slight critique of the American public education system, and the tough time teachers have amidst indifferent students, but those moments amount to about 30 seconds of screen time. Noble, yes, but not a neat fit here. We're good with the preposterous brawl and its riotously inappropriate talent show lead-in. Are you perhaps familiar with Big Sean's work?

Morgan: TV is a little bit more personable than movies.

"The problem is they were so good at what they do that they didn't look sloppy enough", explained Day.

Reach Goodykoontz at bill.goodykoontz@arizonarepublic.com.

It pits a stereotypical Angry Black Guy (Ice Cube, glaring and swearing) against a stereotypical Wimpy White Squish (Charlie Day, in squeaking weakling mode) whose ongoing conflict throughout the last day of school escalates to ... see title.

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