Chick Fight

Chick Fight deserves credit for living up to the promise of its title. There are definitely a lot of women fighting in this movie. Those fights are nicely staged and choreographed. Beyond that, the picture is yet another riff on the Karate Kid formula, with little to distinguish it. What's frustrating is the absolute determination to adhere to that formula without variance. Within the first ten minutes, you know every single thing that's going to happen during the story.

Anna Wyncomb (Malin Akerman) finds her personal and professional lives going down the tubes. One of her best friends is a cop named Charlene (Dulce Sloan), who perpetually talks about sex in the crudest of terms (because that's the movie's idea of edginess). Charlene gets tired of Anna's moping and forces her to come to a local warehouse, where an all-female fight club meets regularly. A fundamental rule of the club is that all newcomers must fight, so Anna gets in the ring, promptly losing her first match.

Chick Fight would end right there without something propelling her back in, so naturally she gets into a spat with the club's star fighter, Olivia (Bella Thorne), and challenges her to a fight. Alec Baldwin plays Jack Murphy, the Mr. Miyagi-like trainer Anna hires to get her into fighting shape. (Well, he's an intoxicated, less-qualified version of Mr. Miyagi.) Jack, of course, makes her go through the requisite unconventional training exercises. Entourage's Kevin Connelly plays a doctor who treats women's injuries at the club and falls for Anna, since the movie wouldn't be complete without a half-baked romantic subplot.

Following a well-established formula isn't an unpardonable sin for a movie, provided it executes that formula well. Chick Fight just carries it out in a rote manner. Joseph Downey's screenplay is filled with jokes that are cheap, obvious, and/or unfunny. The characters are one-dimensional, with very little nuance, so we tire of spending time with them quickly. An attempt to wring meaning out of the material, via a revelation about Anna's mother, is difficult to accept because it's so underdeveloped. And really, there are only so many training montages a viewer can take before they become tedious.

Everything builds to the big finale where Anna and Olivia face off. Here's where Chick Fight falters most. The movie clearly establishes that Olivia has spent years honing her fighting skills. She is, without a doubt, a formidable opponent. Anna, on the other hand, has been training with a drunk for two months and we're supposed to believe that she's attained a similar level of expertise. That, combined with the foregone conclusion of how the fight will end, guarantees there's no suspense.

Akerman, Baldwin, and Thorne give their all, yet it's not enough to overcome a hackneyed plot that lackadaisically goes through the motions. Chick Fight fancies itself a hip, contemporary female empowerment tale. In truth, there's something fundamentally regressive about a story that says the best way for a woman to take charge in life is to get trained by a man in the art of beating up another woman.

out of four

Chick Fight is rated R for language and sexual material throughout, some violence and brief drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 37 minutes.