- Associated Press - Thursday, February 16, 2017

LOS ANGELES (AP) - No one could have predicted when they were making the breezy, irreverent, 91-minute Charlie Day and Ice Cube comedy “Fist Fight” that it would be coming out in the midst of such uncertain and divisive times.

Back then, nearly two years ago, the cast was thinking about the story about a group of teachers facing layoffs in a mismanaged public school, and how some were finally getting the chance to work together (Cube had tried to work with Day on “Ride Along 2” but it didn’t pan out). They were changing roles from male to female to get rising talents like Jillian Bell (“22 Jump Street”) in the pack, and creating parts for others like “Silicon Valley” star Kumail Nanjiani, who plays a school security guard. And all were delighting in Tracy Morgan’s return to movies after his near-fatal 2014 accident.

“We all worried about (Tracy) so much because of the accident and to see him normal and not really affected by the accident physically, it was great,” Cube said. “You realize how precious life is. In a blink of an eye you can be gone. It makes you cherish the moments you got with a person.”

All in all, it was as fun as one would imagine - save for the after-school fight between Cube and Day’s characters, which Day has not entirely recovered from physically.

“I don’t know that my leg will ever be the same. Something happened, something went wrong and I couldn’t feel my foot,” Day said. “Sleeping on it still hurts a little bit.”

But now the enjoyable romp about a sorely mismatched showdown has the added burden of coming into theaters in the midst of daily political tumult. Even the film’s official Twitter account has cheekily riffed on “fake news.” It’s the larger context that has overshadowed everything else.

The mood and uncertainty even permeated conversations when the cast gathered to promote the film recently in Los Angeles. Suddenly on-set antics seemed a lot less funny.

“Hopefully people still want to go to the movies,” Day said.

Nanjiani said he’s been thinking a lot lately about where comedy fits in the current climate.

“It’s a tough time to really know how to be or what to do,” he said. “I have to believe that empathy and pieces of art that make people feel connected and less lonely are important right now.”

All hope that at the very least, movies - especially bawdy comedies - can serve as an enjoyable distraction.

“No matter where you stand, whether this is the worst time in your life or the greatest time in your life politically, it’s important to put all that aside and let yourself laugh and blow off some steam,” Day added. “Otherwise what are you going to do? Just drink?”

Bell, who plays a meth-addict teacher who’s infatuated with a male high school student, added, “people definitely need to get out and see something that makes them have big belly laughs.”

Morgan sees it as providing a service to the audience, not unlike what he does in his standup routines.

“We’re making you laugh. I’m proud to be in service of you when I’m making you laugh,” Morgan said.

Cube took it a step further, relating even the themes of the movie to what’s going on in the country.

“These are two people who have differences and they decide to fight it out, but what happens after the fight is kind of really what it’s all about. The country is fighting out its differences here and there and hopefully we become a better country, not worse. At the end of the day, we’re all the same. We’re all fighting for pretty much the same things. When there’s enough to go around like there is in the United States, there’s really no reason to fight,” Cube said. “This country? We’ve always had differences and at times it’s gotten heated, but we’ve always realized that we work better together than apart. Period.”


Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

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