Fighting with My Family is a new sports comedy film produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (former WWE superstar turned action hero) and written and directed by Stephen Merchant (one of the creators of The Office). Based on a true story, the movie follows a teenager in small-town England who dreams of becoming a wrestler in the WWE.
The core story is a rather standard underdog tale. The protagonist is the underdog. She faces all sorts of challenges and trials, almost gives up, and ultimately makes a comeback. That’s the story of pretty much every sports movie ever made. Is it original? No. But does it work? Absolutely. Although the story may not be the most unique, it is done in a way that is still enjoyable because of tight pacing.
A big part of what makes the film so successful is its characters. Raya (aka Paige) is a very sympathetic protagonist. The experiences which she goes through with her family are definitely relatable, and she is the underdog. It’s hard not to root for the underdog. Her brother, Zak, is also a compelling character. He adds another layer of emotion to the movie and complements Raya’s development well.
Quite a few moments in the film are laugh-out-loud funny. There is a lot of diversity in the styles of humor incorporated into the script, so there is something for everyone. Merchant’s witty situational humor definitely shines through in many spots, providing some of the best laughs. There is also some slapstick humor here and there, but this wasn’t as frequent. The funniest moments come from the self-referential humor, especially when Johnson is playing an exaggerated version of himself.
Additionally, the movie benefits from having an abundance of heart. Yes, it may get cheesy at times, but it works regardless, as the story and characters are so resonant. The film doesn’t skimp on the sentimentality, especially in the storyline featuring Raya and Zak. The interactions between the two siblings are among the most effective moments in the movie, warming and breaking your heart at different times.
The actors all do a great job in their roles. Florence Pugh is excellent as the protagonist, nailing the comedic and dramatic moments with ease. It is hard to believe that she is the same actress that starred in Lady Macbeth, as the two roles are so vastly different. Jack Lowden complements her well as her brother, especially during the emotionally-driven scenes. Vince Vaughn and Nick Frost both have funny supporting roles, and Johnson and Merchant have hilarious cameos.
The film is really well-shot. It does stick to the conventional way of filming a sports movie, but that style works. The cinematography and editing are both great. The wrestling scenes and training montages are intense and fun to watch. In fact, they are shot so well that you can almost get wrapped up in them and forget that they’re fixed.
Overall, Fighting with My Family was an enjoyable and well-made film. It may not have the most original script, but it is a well-made good time at the movies.
Fighting with My Family opens in select theaters on February 14 and everywhere February 22.