Fighting with my Family: Formulaic but cheery wrestling comedy
Review: Florence Pugh, The Rock and Vince Vaughn deliver irresistible results
Florence Pugh does the heavy lifting – literally and figuratively – when comedic material is thin
Film Title: Fighting with my Family
Director: Stephen Merchant
Starring: Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn. Dwayne Johnson
Running Time: 108 min
The Rock and The Office and Extras co-creator Stephen Merchant sound like an unlikely tag team, but this cheery comedy inspired by the life of Saraya-Jade Bevis (aka Paige) who went from the less salubrious boroughs of Norwich to WWE Divas Champion at age 21, makes for a winning alchemy.
Growing up in Norwich, Zak (Dunkirk breakout Jack Lowden) and his sister Soraya (Florence Pugh) are inducted into the family business of backroom wrestling, early and often.
As teenagers, the siblings help to train budding brawlers and perform at underpopulated, low-rent matches. Their struggling parents (Lena Headey and Nick Frost) are thrilled when WWE trainer Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn) agrees to give Zak and Soraya a tryout before a SmackDown taping at the O2 Arena in London. There, The Rock (also an executive producer on the film) offers some sage advice.
Co-produced between Film4 and WWE Studios, Fighting with my Family manages to incorporate the aesthetic culture shock of jetting between housing estates and Miami rooftop pools into the screenplay. The family story, already recounted in the 2012 documentary of the same name, has to be pummelled in order to conform to a recognisable Hollywood shape, replete with last-minute reversals and dashes.
It’s hard to argue with the irresistible results, however formulaic, and even when the material is thin, Pugh is there to, literally and figuratively, do the heavy lifting. By the end of this year, the 23-year-old will have starred in Midsommer (Ari Aster’s follow-up to Hereditary) and Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, but with a few key roles to her credit (Lady Macbeth, The Little Drummer Girl), she’s already convincingly A-list.
She has several dependable fellow travellers here, notably Jack Lowden as her hurt brother, and Headey and Frost playing her reformed mum and dad. (Well, not too reformed.) Inevitably, The Rock (as opposed to Dwayne Johnson) steals his scenes, and, happy to report, the Vaughnaissance is still ticking along, as the actor turns in an older, wiser variation on the dry-wits of Swingers and Dodgeball. To whom it may concern: WWE stars Big Show, Pete Dunne and Sheamus are also in the house.
Out March 1st