A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fist Fight is a raunchy comedy about two teachers (Charlie Day and Ice Cube) who agree to have a fight on the last day of school. Although it's played for laughs, the movie's violence is surprisingly intense: During the big fight, both teachers are knocked unconscious (one with a fire extinguisher), crashing into and break a car's windshield, and get other terrible-looking injuries. But they both walk away seemingly mostly uninjured. In the "very iffy messages" department, several characters tell a man who's reluctant to fight that he should "man up" and not be a "little b---h" or a "p---y"; once he's been in the fight, everyone seems to regard him as courageous and more mature. There's plenty of other strong language, including "s--t," "f--k," "ass," "hell," "damn," "bulls--t," and "motherf---ker." A guidance counselor leers at male students and calls them "fine"; she ultimately hooks up with a graduating student, and the movie implies it's OK for them to get together because he's "not a student anymore." In a running joke, a student masturbates in the bathroom; nothing sensitive is visible, but he talks graphically about "finishing." A quick shot from a porn movie shows naked breasts. Both students and teachers smoke pot at school; a teacher also buys drugs from a student and plants them on another teacher, and a teacher jokes about buying and using meth. Apple products are featured very prominently.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Roosevelt High is always a tough school -- but on Senior Prank Day, which also happens to be the last day of school, it's even tougher than usual. Even worse, this year, Principal Tyler (Dean Norris) is looking to slash the school's staff just before summer starts. Nice-guy English teacher Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) is holding up under the stress -- despite the added wrinkle that his wife is just about to have their second baby -- until he walks into Ron Strickland's (Ice Cube) classroom. Campbell only means to help the history teacher with the AV system. But what happens next launches Strickland and Campbell into a rivalry that's destined to end in a FIST FIGHT. Can Andy save his job, take care of his family, and somehow avoid being killed by a furious fellow teacher? One day could make the difference.
Is it any good?
"Teachers behaving badly" is a classic comedy premise that often works, but this movie's toxic take on masculinity and logical plot holes ruin the funny. It could have been amusing to have one unhinged teacher threatening another with mild violence. And Ice Cube and Day (whom It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia fans know as Charlie Kelly) are charming enough to have carried it off. But Fist Fight goes way, way, waaaaay over the top. Strickland, who early on in the movie destroys a student's wooden desk with an axe before threatening Campbell with it, is a terrifying potential rival who promises that the fight won't end until someone is unconscious. Plus, everyone in the movie seems to view Strickland's challenge to Campbell as some sort of lighthearted test of Campbell's masculinity. He's urged no fewer than six times to "man up" or to not be a "little b---h" or a "p---y" and go ahead and fight the guy (who's twice his size), already.
So there's that sour note, plus an assorted dozen doughnuts of other problems, too. As if a vicious fight wasn't high enough stakes, the confrontation is scheduled to take place at the same time that Campbell's supposed to be doing a school talent show act with his young daughter (on the last day of school? Really?). Spoiler alert: He doesn't make it. Then he does, and the daughter foils her mean-girl bully by performing an expletive-laden song. Wow, the F-word. That'll really make those bullies pay. Then there are non-funny jokes about the school guidance counselor (Jillian Bell), apparently a meth connoisseur who has the hots for the senior boys ... yikes. If only this absurd comedy had a core of sweetness instead of a desire to shock. A few of the jokes do land. But if you have a heart, the meanness makes it harder to laugh.
Talk to your kids about ...
What do you think about the idea that being willing to get in a fight makes a man "more" of a man? Is this a message you've seen or heard elsewhere? How is that potentially harmful?
Movies tend to exaggerate real life for comic effect. Does going so far over the top make First Fight funnier? Would a more realistic school be as funny?
How does the movie portray bullying? What are some real-life strategies to deal with bullies?
- In theaters: February 17, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: May 30, 2017
- Cast: Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan
- Director: Richie Keen
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout, sexual content/nudity and drug material
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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