Most everybody loves a good underdog tale, and the British have turned it into an art form. So, does wrestling tale Fighting with My Family do a belly flop, or does it deliver a (carefully staged) knockout blow?
Take a true story about somebody fighting against the odds, do it right and you’re sure to get a great flick out of it. So, Fighting with My Family enters the fray that previously gave us the likes of everything from The Full Monty and Brassed Off through to Billy Elliot and Eddie the Eagle (especially Eddie the Eagle).
It tells the tale of the Knights, a British family of wrestlers running their own shows around the country and training up their kids in hopes of them one day becoming big WWE stars. A TV documentary was made on them several years back, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson happened to see it while flicking through channels late one insomnia-fuelled night in London and, as “they” say, the rest is history.
Johnson nabbed the rights to the flick, and has not only got it made, but also found time to appear in it, as himself. British funny bloke Stephen Merchant – you know, the lanky, slightly gawky guy – was brought in for his feature film writing and directing debut, and he’s made quite the decent fist of it. He’s one of the minds behind such British comedy gold as The Office and Extras, and his deft and sometimes daft, but charmingly familiar, style of humour plays well throughout.
Fighting with My Family is a genuine transatlantic affair. The British casting end is held up by Nick Frost and Lena Headey as the heads of the Knight family, with relative newcomer Florence Pugh taking the main role of young Saraya Knight, aka WWE wrestling sensation Paige. As for the US side, joining Mr The Rock is fellow wrestling type John Cena, along with Vince Vaughn as the classic tough – but fair, of course – coach.
While some of these big names may be the drawcard, ultimately it really is Pugh – as well as to a certain degree Jack Lowden as her sibling rival, Zak – that bears the weight of carrying the film, and she’s quite the revelation. While all the traditional underdog beats are tapped in this “soap opera in spandex” tale, it’s done with flair, humour and the odd fun surprise.
Fighting with My Family is one of those charming little films that you walk out of feeling energised and inspired by – even if there isn’t the merest glimmer of hope of a WWE career in your future.
In cinemas: March 21, 2019
Starring: Florence Pugh, Nick Frost, Dwayne Johnson
Directed by: Stephen Merchant