When you look over the plethora of films that come out every year to decide a “Worst” one, there is a lot to consider. What is the film’s intention? What is it trying to say? To execute? Did it fail in that regard? Why did it? Is it just something intrinsic to the story that made it not work for you, or in general? Why was it made? Did it fail in cinematography, acting, writing, lighting, editing, etc.? And thankfully Fist Fight really doesn’t have any of these issues to unlock to figure out why exactly I hated it; it just sucks.
The Charlie Day/Ice Cube headbutting gag comedy is one I’m sure most people forgot and for good reason. It suffers massively from that problem most modern-day comedies of this calibre face in that a lot of the dialogue is improv’d with actors clearly not comfortable or trained in that style. Day and Cube have exactly zero chemistry, and Cube’s persona is turned up to 90,000 just to make the premise make sense. It has so much wasted talent that don’t add anything (why the *fuck* is Christina Hendricks even in this movie?!). They try to make it a throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks goofball comedy with a relatable lead to ground it, but it’s intensely mean-spirited and has this weird connotation of making a grown ass man getting into a street brawl be the emotional centrepiece of the film. It has a lot of weird things to say about humanity and the way the school system functions without making any of this…interesting. I’m not expecting The Wire-level of social critique, but at least something to make this shit palatable.
I’m only really covering this because I committed to making short(ish) articles about my favourite and least favourite movies of 2017. And, honestly…I got nothing, this movie’s badness is apparent and uninteresting. What you see is what you get. Instead, I’m going to hyperfocus in on Charlie Day as the lead and talk about how to use your Charlie Day.
When we bring up typecasting, there’s a stigma to it that actors are bad if they play a certain role in a certain way. And I don’t think that’s entirely fair, as typecasting is more negative when they can’t find work because people only see them in a very specific role. Actors play to their strengths, I don’t think that’s a controversial statement to make. Sometimes, their strengths lie in certain types of characters they play. Michael Cera is one of these actors-he plays the meekish, awkward dorky kid really well, but I think he adds a lot of his own nuances and quirks to different characters he plays. He’s just good in that part. Another famous one is Morgan Freeman. He plays the wizened soft-spoken guy, that doesn’t put down his range.
Hell, Ice Cube is this too! He’s the likeable angry guy. You need someone who’s really aggravated by everything but the audience will still root for him, you hire Mr. Cube. I mean they forgot the ‘likeable’ part in this film, but he sure is angry! And that kind of leads us into Charlie Day’s character in this movie, Andrew Campbell. Campbell is a sadsack, which you think would suit Day’s particular brand of comedy. But he’s not the sadsack like Charlie Kelly or Newt Geiszler. Because Campbell’s just kind of ordinary. Let me elaborate:
Charlie Day adds a lot of weird energy to the parts he plays. So, they tend to play well from weird people who don’t get a lot of respect, but are still really made loveable and you get attached to them as audience members. Charlie in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is gross, selfish, has completely terrible social skills and personal hygiene and completely lacks the self-awareness or intelligence to be conscious of all this. Newt is a neurotic, fast-talking, Kaiju-obsessed scientist who doesn’t really think ahead what he says and lacks certain moral barriers when it comes to his explorations. But they’re both really likeable in their own way, with a lot of fun quirks and eccentricities that Day adds.
And on paper, Andy Campbell may embody that. He’s completely down-on-his-luck and is not respected at all by anybody. He tries to talk his way out of awkward situations, but always makes them worse. It should be something Day could play in his sleep. Here’s the problem though; he’s not weird. Like, at all. He’s a really ordinary dude, has got a steady (if threatened) job, a wife and child, with another on the way. He’s an Everyman. And Everyman just isn’t Day’s stride, his characters work better when they’re off the cuff or really strange.
Even the scene where they use the high pitch tone in his voice is nowhere near as funny as when it happens in Sunny. It’s a really weirdly paced bit where he’s just mildly surprised to see his wife. They don’t even remotely make it comedically exploitable, cause what usually makes his vocal pitch funny are the insane mannerisms and expressions that he adds.
And look, this isn’t to knock Day, or to say he can’t play the straight man. Hell, it’s not even to say he doesn’t have range; Charlie and Newt are incredibly different characters. But it’s just that if you’re going to try to suck the eccentric from his role (to a degree-they attempt to make him neurotic and fast-talking, and it’s….not good), you should at least compensate that for a better balanced or decently written character. Hell, the changes they make to Newt in the Pacific Rim sequel add to that-it just sucked the charisma out of his performance, despite Day doing a great job with what was written.
It also doesn’t help that Campbell is really unlikeable and weaselly. It’s a deliberate part of his character, but he’s also such a dick in this film that he never comes off as relatable or charming. So you got a guy known for playing loveable goofballs and you couldn’t make him loveable or goofy. I guess I’ll end this by saying I honestly would think it’d be fun if he played a straight man and it wasn’t terribly written, a loathsome character, and actually played to Day’s strengths as an actor. If there’s a role he’s done where that’s the case, hit me up. I’ve likely not seen it.
That’s all I wanted to discuss. This movie’s shit, it’s not even worth tearing apart in of itself.