It’s the last day at Roosevelt High School and things are getting weird: the senior pranks have gotten WAY outta hand (horses in the hallway, trip-wires with paint canisters) and two teachers are at a collision course over a misunderstanding. Spineless dweeb Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) teaches English and, while helping out the scariest teacher in the school, he accidentally gets on his bad side (like he has a good side). That teacher is Ron Strickland (Ice Cube), with a permanent scowl on his face and always pissed-off about something.
The emotionally distressed principal (the hilarious Dean Norris) fires Strickland for chopping up a kids desk up with a fire axe. Ron blames Andy and challenges him to a fight after school in the parking lot at 3pm. Fearing for his life, Campbell tries to get help from his looney fellow teachers: the mentally several-tacos-short-of-a-combo-plate school counselor Holly (Jillian Bell), who seems to have an unhealthy fetish for young teen boys and Coach Crawford (Tracy Morgan), who is the losing-est coach in their history. Plus, Andy has problems at home with his very pregnant and loving wife (JoAnna Garcia–a dead ringer for Amy Adams) and his little daughter Ally (Alexa Nisenson), who is supposed to be in a talent show that afternoon with dear ‘ol dad.
With no help in sight from anyone (even a 911 call laughs at him), Campbell resorts to crazy means to stop the impending fight, like bribing a student into lying about the axe incident, trying to get Ron his job back, and even planting drugs on Strickland that backfires. With so much chaos going on and mounting pressure building, something has to snap. And it does: Campbell grows a backbone and decides to go through with the fight, but not before putting a few things right in his life.
The fight is a HUGE event, with a massive crowd (sure to go viral) and Campbell, hopelessly outmatched, getting into a ridiculously long knock-down, drag-out fight worthy of the one from Any Which Way But Loose, where any normal human would have died (or been severely injured) in the first five minutes. Yes, it has your typical happy ending, but you knew that already. The strength of this preposterous story lies in its writing and actors to pull it off. Thankfully, you have a decent script by Van Robichaux & Evan Susser who, believe it or not, have never written a movie screenplay before! They must’ve watched the movies Big Bully and Three O’clock High and decided to mash them together. Nice going, guys!
The first-time movie director here is Richie Keen, known for his TV work on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and Angie Tribeca, so he knows his comedy timing and where to put the camera. There was so much that could have gone wrong with this movie, as it teetered on the edge and pulled through, even with a cornucopia full of lame dick jokes, F-bombs galore, offensive sight gags, and more than your usual amount of pedophilia jokes. Still, with all that, it’s has some very funny moments like a quick montage of Strickland’s imagined past that is hilarious, 10-year-old Ally singing a filthy rap song, and Jillian Bell’s dead-pan comedic delivery.
Day is terrific as the nebbish little dork that is having the worst day of his life and slowly degenerates into a mass of stuttering nervousness. Ice Cube, mostly all growls and scowls, is just having fun being all bad-ass. It’s also great to see Tracy Morgan back on screen after many years, and check out the brief appearance of Kumail Nanjuani as the school security guard.
Big Bully (1996)