Fighting With My Family - This Rock Movie Rocks
Dir: Stephen Merchant
Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Lowden, Nick Frost, Lena Headey, Vince Vaughn, Dwayne The Rock
Stephen Merchant steps out of Rocky Gervais’ shadow and into that of the bulk of Dwayne The Rock. Fighting With My Family is based on a true life story, spotted as a Channel 4 doc late one night when Dwayne the Rock was channel surfing in a London hotel room. He then recruited Tooth Fairy co-star Merchant to help turn it into a feel-good family comedy-drama.
Which is exactly what he’s done. And rather well too. The tale of how northern teen Saraya Knight (Pugh) rose from wrestling with her family of wrestlers to becoming “Paige” a genuine WWE superstar, much to the chagrin of her disappointed brother Zak (Lowden), who failed the audition, is an engaging one, beautifully played by its core team of four, and spread nicely across said four to make sure this story is anything but one-sided.
And, even though he’s barely in it, it’s easy to say that this is The Rock’s best film since Fast 5. (Vince Vaughn meanwhile, whilst decent, can't help but remind that this film is not Dodgeball.)
Merchant, and his producer Dwayne, have clearly set out to make a movie that pleases as many as possible, but the former brings more to it than just easy laughs. Indeed, initially, some of the laughs are too “easy” and sound more like fast paced sitcom dialogue rather than the character based humour that eventually emerges and dominates.
And yes, there’s a certain heavy handedness to the sentiment at times, determined to get its audience's waterworks going. But all of that is balanced, and – let’s be honest – sold by an absolute knock out performance from Pugh, who is rapidly emerging as one of the UK’s most impressive young actresses. It is her, rather the movie’s occasional contrivances and lazy manipulation, that truly drags you in and wins your heart. The movie aims to knock you out, but she’s the real deal body slam that seals it.
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