‘Fighting with My Family’ Will Charm Even the Biggest Pro Wrestling Cynics
Unless someone discovers a miraculous way to turn an inspirational sports drama on its head and create something no one has ever seen before, finding a different angle to take in the genre would be a tough assignment for anyone in Hollywood. Sometimes, however, the tried-and-true formula works better than most, especially when there is a strong screenplay and the sport itself doesn’t lose its top billing to less important love stories or unnecessary melodrama.
Luckily, Fighting with My Family, the true story of how female professional wrestler Paige made it onto the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) roster, locks into the familiar but meaningful blueprint it takes for a movie like this to be successful. With British writer/director Stephen Merchant (TV’s The Office) in the driver’s seat, the final result feels almost effortless.
Fighting with My Family begins with the introduction of the Knight family from Norwich, England, who do nothing but eat, drink and sleep wrestling. Although mom and dad (Lena Headey and Nick Frost) had some success in the English independent circuit, son Zak (Jack Lowden) and daughter Raya, AKA Paige (Florence Pugh), are the ones hoping their commitment to the sport will land them an audition with the WWE.
When the WWE finally calls, Zak and Paige are shipped out to America to try to impress talent recruiter and coach Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn). But when Paige and not Zak make the cut to continue on the road for stardom, both are faced with difficult decisions. Can Paige carry on without her brother? Can Zak provide support now that his own goal to become a pro wrestler is destroyed?
Moviegoers don't have to be fans of professional wrestling to appreciate the universal messages behind Fighting with My Family. It's a charming, light-hearted dramedy and easily the best movie project that WWE Studios has ever had its hand in producing. Merchant’s script is rife with humorous dialogue and Pugh’s portrayal of an outcast, punky wrestler proves to be inspiring, although she isn’t as hyper-sexualized in the film as most of the “divas” of the WWE, which, in a sense, clashes with the empowering themes of the movie.
Nevertheless, Fighting with My Family is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson might have a cameo (two short, effective scenes), but this isn’t the sort of WWE movie that is blatantly selling a product. Instead of focusing on “what the Rock is cooking,” viewers should be more interested in what Merchant has created – an endearing and enthusiastic journey with a likeable cast of characters who dream big.