by Rob DiCristino
1. It shows as much as it tells.
Fighting with My Family’s brilliance is in its deceptive simplicity. Based on real-life WWE star Paige (Saraya-Jade Bevis) and written by The Office co-creator Stephen Merchant (who also directs), it finds clean and straightforward ways to invest the audience in a niche topic — a family of professional wrestlers. For example: After opening with a montage of great moments from the WWE, we cut to a young Zak (Thomas Whilley) watching and cheering along. The station switches abruptly over to Charmed, and there’s young Saraya (Tori Ellen Ross) holding the remote. The pair break out into a fight, which draws the wrath of dad (Nick Frost as Ricky). We expect him to stop the scuffle, but he doesn’t. Instead, he corrects Zak’s choke-hold method and lets the fight continue. More noise means more disruption, so here comes mom (Lena Headey as Julia). “He’s choking me!” says Saraya. “What are you going to do about it?” asks mom. Less than two minutes into the film, we’ve introduced our world, established our characters’ interpersonal dynamics, and earned our audience’s attention by subverting expectations.
2. Superstars, NXT, Divas, Smackdown, Raw...
Pitch Perfect before it (Suck it, Bromley), Fighting with My Family sells me on the WWE by showing me how important it is to its characters. Sure, WWE Studios is a co-producer and Trademarked Brand Terminology is awkwardly inserted into everyday conversation, but that makes sense in this universe. Nerds are particular about our vocabulary. We’d want to get it right. We’d never invest precious energy in the wrong words. The movie also deftly dismantles the number one criticism levied against pro wrestling: It’s fake. In one early scene, league manager Ricky tests wrestler Union Jack’s (Elroy Powell) tolerance for pain: A trash can lid to the face? Sure. A bowling ball to the bollocks? I’d rather not, but okay. By the time we see a grown Zak (Jack Lowden) removing tacks from his skin after a bout, we understand that this is staged, but it’s not fake. “It's a soap opera in spandex,” says NXT coach Hutch (Vince Vaughn). These are real athletes putting on a real show.
3. Vince Vaughn
4. The George McFly Effect
5. It keeps The Rock under control.
Hobbs & Shaw defender like me can admit that this whole beige-clad, brand-safe blockbuster hunt is taking a bit of the shine off the apple. Since earning enough clout to take on the role of producer, he’s been inserting himself in places he just doesn’t belong (see the third act of the aforementioned Hobbs & Shaw) and jamming his alleged awesomeness down our throats at every opportunity. His prominence in the production and promotion of Fighting with My Family could have been disastrous, but the movie wisely relegates him to two scenes that require his gigantic celebrity presence to properly convey the stakes to the characters and the audience. It lets him do his thing and then, you know, puts the lid back on the bottle. That’s how you do it!