‘Fighting with My Family’ Review

Director: Stephen Merchant

Writer: Stephen Merchant

Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn, Nick Frost, Lena Headey and Dwayne Johnson

Synopsis: A former wrestler and his family make a living performing at small venues around the country while his kids dream of joining World Wrestling Entertainment

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the true story of WWE superstar Paige, real name Saraya-Jade Bevis, Stephen Merchant and producer Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson took inspiration from Paige’s real life and the documentary series about Paige’s family to make Fighting with My Family. Being a wrestling nerd myself, I have been looking forward to this since it was announced, and hearing the good word of mouth, I was fully ready to really enjoy the film. That said, whether or not you know Paige’s story or not, you’ll walk out appreciating the journey.

The film follows Saraya (Florence Pugh) and her brother Zak (Jack Lowden) Knight who have been training as professional wrestlers since they were kids by their wrestling parents Ricky (Nick Frost) and Julia (Lena Headey). Their dream? Going to the WWE, and eventually they get a call to try-out for them, and head to WWE’s developmental program, NXT. However, when Saraya is chosen over Zak, Saraya goes to Orlando to begin her training and Zak has to stay behind to figure out what do now that his dream can no longer be achieved. Paige’s underdog story then begins through trials and tribulations.

Fighting with My Family has your basic underdog sports formula we’ve seen before, expect this time it’s done through pro wrestling. Paige wrestles – pun intended – with being different around the other potential contenders, dealing with the drama with her brother and eventually reaching the dream she wanted in the grandest way possible. This isn’t necessarily a negative toward the film, considering it is what you expect in this kind of story, but it is just a bit of a shame that Merchant went the formulaic route.

That goes double considering Paige’s story is much more than what we get onscreen. Again, being a wrestling nerd and knowing her story, it was a shame to see some things taken out or completely ignored. Of course, that’s not to say that everything in the movie is a lie. It is still Saraya’s story, but having her just be dropped into the crazy world of the WWE is far from what happened.

Regardless of all that, Fighting with My Family is still very good, and most of that comes from the cast. Merchant puts the weight of the movie squarely on Pugh’s shoulders and she carries it with ease. She’s able to bring everything the story requires from the drama, to the humor to even some for the ring work she was allowed to do. Jack Lowden as Zak is equally great, and the chemistry he and Pugh have is fantastic, and makes the two easily believable and easy to root for that we become almost immediately invested in both of their journeys.

Supporting role wise, I wish we had seen a little more of both Nick Frost and Lena Headey. They’re in it enough for the story the film is trying to tell, but still having those two in your movie, and not having them in it a little more is a bit of a bummer. Vince Vaughn’s Hutch Morgan – a combination of different people like Norman Smiley, Dr. Tom Prichard and Bill DeMott, at least according to Paige – balances the line between a hard-nosed, nonsense coach and giving Saraya enough to motivate her, but still being a hardass. Finally, for those worried that Dwayne Johnson would overtake the film, don’t worry, he’s only in about three or four scenes, and we’ve seen most of them in the trailers and TV ads.

All in all, Fighting with My Family is an underdog story we’ve seen before but in a different sport that most people have either fallen out of love with or still follow to this day. That said, Stephen Merchant’s direction and balance of drama and humor is spot on, plus the cast keep you invested from start to finish.

Fighting with My Family

3.5 out of 5

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February Movie Releases

So how are those New Years Resolutions coming along? Kidding!

How’s the cold treating you? Because it sure as hell SUCKED here in the Chicago-land area!

Anyway, we’re here for movies! February is looking like a legit month with some huge films coming out. It’s also the month that is bringing the end to a beloved franchise. So, let’s get to it!

 

1st

Limited Release: Arctic

A man (Mads Mikkelsen) stranded in the Arctic after an airplane crash must decide whether to remain in the relative safety of his makeshift camp or embark on a deadly trek through the unknown in hopes of making it out alive. The film is the feature film debut of Joe Penna aka Mystery Guitar Man from Youtube fame.

 

Miss Bala

Gloria (Gina Rodriguez) finds a power she never knew she had when she is drawn into a dangerous world of cross-border crime. Surviving will require all of her cunning, inventiveness and strength. The movie is, unbeknownst to me for some time, a remake of a Spanish film of the same name and directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight, Red Riding Hood). Honestly, I don’t have a lot of interest in watching this. The trailer does nothing for me, and why I hear Gina Rodriguez is great on her show Jane the Virgin, that may not mean she’s good to lead a movie. Hey, I could be wrong, and part of me hope I am, but another thing the movie has against it is its coming out on Super Bowl weekend, and movies coming out this weekend don’t tend to do too well. Miss Bala co-stars Ismael Cruz Cordova, Matt Lauria, Thomas Dekker and Anthony Mackie.

 

8th

Limited Release: Everybody Knows

Laura (Penelope Cruz), a Spanish woman living in Buenos Aires, returns to her hometown outside Madrid with her two children to attend her sister’s wedding. However, the trip is upset by unexpected events that bring secrets into the open. Everybody Knows co-stars Javier Bardem.

 

What Men Want

A gender-swap of the 2000 Mel Gibson-led movie What Women Want, this movie has Ali (Taraji P. Henson) is boxed out by the male sports agents in her profession. However, she gains an unexpected edge over them when she develops the ability to hear their thoughts. The gender-swapping trend continues this year, and why I’m sure this movie will find its audience, What Men Wants may be one of those movies that gets lost in the shuffle for me. What Men Want co-stars Josh Brener, Max Greenfield, Aldis Hodge, Kellan Lutz, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Tracy Morgan.

 

The Prodigy

A mother (Taylor Schilling) concerned about her young son’s disturbing behavior thinks something supernatural may be affecting him. This one pretty much came out of nowhere, mainly because of its test screening stories. According to multiple reports, and confirmed by its director Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact), The Prodigy had to be re-edited because the movie was TOO SCARY. Apparently, test audiences missed parts of the movie because they were recovering from the scares. Reading that, and then watching the trailer, I can believe that, because I never heard of the movie until I saw the trailer – in theaters – and that last bit scared the crap out of the whole audience, including me. Needless to say, this is one to put on the Must-Watch List.

 

Cold Pursuit

Based on the 2014 Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance, a snowplow driver (Liam Neeson) seeks revenge against the drug dealers he thinks killed his son. Leaving the cheesy feeling of “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” playing in the trailer, Cold Pursuit looks like it’s playing with the notion of Neeson playing the badass hero. I actually loved his delivery of the reading a lot of crime novels, so of course he’s ready to kill people. There’s also the feeling that this is a payoff of the joke in Daddy’s Home 2, but hey, seeing Neeson on the big screen beating the crap out of people? I’m in. Cold Pursuit co-stars Emmy Rossum, Tom Bateman, Laura Dern and William Forsythe.  

 

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

It’s been five years since everything was awesome and the citizens are facing a huge new threat: LEGO DUPLO invaders from outer space, wrecking everything faster than they can rebuild. I loved the first LEGO movie, and still do. That said, the trailers for The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part are just okay, but I want to say part of that is to hide the story of the movie, and maybe even some of the jokes. I’m still going to be sitting in a packed theater opening weekend, so yeah. The voice cast from the first returns, but new additions include Stephanie Beatriz and Tiffany Haddish.

 

13th

Isn’t It Romantic

Natalie (Rebel Wilson) disenchanted with love mysteriously finds herself trapped inside a romantic comedy. I kind of like the concept of this, but the trailer just doesn’t make me actually buy it.  Isn’t It Romantic co-stars Adam Devine, Liam Hemsworth, Priyanka Chopra and Jennifer Saunders.

 

Happy Death Day 2U

Tree (Jessica Rothe) discovers that dying over and over was surprisingly easier than the dangers that lie ahead. Listen, I was onboard the hate wagon for Happy Death Day, but then I watched it and damn I ended up actually liking it. It knew was it was and didn’t take itself too seriously. That said, when I heard about the sequel, I wasn’t too surprised, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to this just a bit. Happy Death Day 2U co-stars Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Suraj Sharma, Rachel Matthews, Sarah Yarkin and Phi Vu.

 

14th

Fighting with My Family

Written and directed by Stephen Merchant, and inspired by the life of WWE superstar Paige, a former wrestler and his family make a living performing at small venues around the country while his kids dream of joining World Wrestling Entertainment. I’m actually a huge wrestling fan – and not just WWE – and knowing some of Paige’s actual story, part of me isn’t surprised it got turned into a movie. The movie itself does look pretty great, although just by seeing the trailer, it looks like they are taking some liberties already. Fighting With My Family co-stars Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn and Dwayne Johnson.

 

Alita: Battle Angel

Co-written by James Cameron, directed by Robert Rodriguez and based on the anime of the same name; the movie is set in the future where Alita (Rosa Salazar) tries to discover the truth of what she really is, and fight to change the world. This one could easily been written off, but the recent word of mouth for the movie is pretty, and slightly surprisingly, positive. It was also suppose to come out last year, but the push back could have helped the movie. I’m also really looking forward to it. Alita: Battle Angel co-stars Christoph Waltz, Keean Johnson, Ed Skrein, Eiza Gonzalez, Lana Condor, Casper Van Dien, Mahershala Ali, Jackie Earle Haley and Jennifer Connelly.

 

22nd

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

When Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) discovers Toothless isn’t the only Night Fury, he must seek “The Hidden World”, a secret Dragon Utopia before a hired tyrant named Grimmel (voiced by F. Murray Abraham) finds it first. I hate myself for saying it, but I yet to watch a How to Train Your Dragon movie, despite my best efforts to watch them. So I’m a bit bummed to think I’m going to miss seeing at least one of these movies in theaters.

 

What are you looking forward to?