[Screen It]

"FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY"
(2019) (Florence Pugh, Jack Lowden) (PG-13)


Read Our Full Content Movie Review for Parents

QUICK TAKE:
Dramedy: The true story of Paige, who was raised in a quirky, yet tight-knit wrestling family in small-town England and rose to fame as a WWE Divas superstar.
PLOT:
Siblings Saraya Knight (FLORENCE PUGH) and Zak Knight (JACK LOWDEN) have been wrestling together since they were very young children. Their dad, Ricky Knight (NICK FROST), has been their teacher, running a small wrestling school and fight venue in small-town England with wife and mom, Julia Knight (LENA HEADEY). They barely skate by, and Ricky -- a recovering alcoholic and former convicted felon -- is always debating whether or not he should revert back to a life of crime.

Then one day, their prayers are seemingly answered when WWE promoter Hutch (VINCE VAUGHN) calls up and invites Saraya and Zak to try out for a spot on NXT, WWE's farm system for its main roster. Saraya makes the cut, and Zak does not. Saraya, age 18, has a difficult time fitting into the WWE's training program in sunny, distant Florida. Alone and on her own for the first time, she flounders against her main competition -- a trio of former cheerleaders and models named Maddison (ELLIE GONSALVES), Kirsten (AQUEELA ZOLL), and Jeri-Lynn (KIM MATULA) -- who she believes were brought in for their T&A appeal and not their wrestling skills. Meanwhile, Zak flounders back in England as a new father dealing with feelings of failure that his lifelong dream will not come true (and, even worse, was stolen by his sister).

Along the way, Saraya does get encouragement from WWE legend Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (HIMSELF) and a trip home gives her the motivation and gumption to return and compete for a spot on the big stage. Eventually, having renamed herself Paige, she is given a shot against current WWE Divas champion AJ Lee (THEA TRINIDAD).

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
One of the true marks of a good film -- whether it's a comedy, a drama, a dramedy, or whatever -- is that it engages you and entertains you, even when the main setting or thrust of the story is something that ordinarily you would not be interested in. As an example, I give you the new "Fighting With My Family," a story about a close-knit family of wrestlers in small-town England who dream of WWE fame. The limelight has already passed by dad Ricky Knight (Nick Frost) and mom Julia (Lena Headey). But it's not too late for their 19-year-old son Zack (Jack Lowden) or their 18-year-old daughter Saraya (Florence Pugh).

And, sure enough, after about 15 or so minutes of introductory scenes that set up the Knights' goofy wrestling school and fight venue and the family dynamics, WWE comes calling in the form of promoter/trainer Hutch (Vince Vaughn) and gives both siblings their shot. Zack is clearly the more skilled of the two wrestlers and has been practicing his "Why do want to join WWE?" speech since he was three years old. Saraya, though, has that certain quality most of us lack. Real star potential. Hutch picks her and not Zack. She gets the golden ticket to go to WWE's training facility in Florida, while Zack stays back in chilly England to raise his newborn son and skate the edge between amateur wrestling and turning to a life of crime like his dad once did.

The film, written and directed by Stephen Merchant, does a great job mixing the comedy and drama, the absurd and the real together, for nearly its entire running time. It's based on the true story of Paige, one of the great WWE Diva champions and the end credits are terrific in showing us real moments from her and her family's lives that were dramatized in the film like their teary airport send-off at Heathrow.

Merchant, cast, and crew don't look down on these people. They don't discount them or belittle their blue-collar dreams of wrestling stardom. The film is framed as if it were "A Star Is Born" or "Rocky" and gives just as much legitimacy to Saraya executing the perfect pile driver as Lady Gaga hitting the high note in "Shallow" or Balboa knocking down Apollo Creed. It also mixes in some fun British humor and will remind some of such flicks as "The Full Monty," "Sing Street," and "Eddie the Eagle."

All three are charmers with their dramatic moments, as is "Fighting With My Family." It also helps that a couple of big, big stars are here to anchor the flick. Vaughn is great as the straight-shooting Hutch. He is absolutely brutal and dispassionate when telling wrestler after wrestler "You ain't got it." But there are still enough fun moments in the script to slip in some classic Vaughn snark and one-liners. Meanwhile, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is a co-producer on this and appears as himself in two key scenes to help Saraya along on her journey.

I do think the film becomes a bit too simplistic in spots. Did Saraya's ultimate moment to step up REALLY happen that way? It seemed out of the blue and ... uh ... a bit unearned at that point. Also, the film clearly acknowledges that pro wrestling is scripted and staged. So, did Saraya know going into her climactic bout that ultimately made her a star that the script was slanted that way? As depicted in the film, it seems she is surprised by the outcome and had to actually work at achieving the final result.

Otherwise, this is a fine film, a real crowd-pleaser, and quite the kick to the head ... in a good way! I give it a 7 out of 10. (T. Durgin).

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
One of the true marks of a good film -- whether it's a comedy, a drama, a dramedy, or whatever -- is that it engages you and entertains you, even when the main setting or thrust of the story is something that ordinarily you would not be interested in. As an example, I give you the new "Fighting With My Family," a story about a close-knit family of wrestlers in small-town England who dream of WWE fame. The limelight has already passed by dad Ricky Knight (Nick Frost) and mom Julia (Lena Headey). But it's not too late for their 19-year-old son Zack (Jack Lowden) or their 18-year-old daughter Saraya (Florence Pugh).

And, sure enough, after about 15 or so minutes of introductory scenes that set up the Knights' goofy wrestling school and fight venue and the family dynamics, WWE comes calling in the form of promoter/trainer Hutch (Vince Vaughn) and gives both siblings their shot. Zack is clearly the more skilled of the two wrestlers and has been practicing his "Why do want to join WWE?" speech since he was three years old. Saraya, though, has that certain quality most of us lack. Real star potential. Hutch picks her and not Zack. She gets the golden ticket to go to WWE's training facility in Florida, while Zack stays back in chilly England to raise his newborn son and skate the edge between amateur wrestling and turning to a life of crime like his dad once did.

The film, written and directed by Stephen Merchant, does a great job mixing the comedy and drama, the absurd and the real together, for nearly its entire running time. It's based on the true story of Paige, one of the great WWE Diva champions and the end credits are terrific in showing us real moments from her and her family's lives that were dramatized in the film like their teary airport send-off at Heathrow.

Merchant, cast, and crew don't look down on these people. They don't discount them or belittle their blue-collar dreams of wrestling stardom. The film is framed as if it were "A Star Is Born" or "Rocky" and gives just as much legitimacy to Saraya executing the perfect pile driver as Lady Gaga hitting the high note in "Shallow" or Balboa knocking down Apollo Creed. It also mixes in some fun British humor and will remind some of such flicks as "The Full Monty," "Sing Street," and "Eddie the Eagle."

All three are charmers with their dramatic moments, as is "Fighting With My Family." It also helps that a couple of big, big stars are here to anchor the flick. Vaughn is great as the straight-shooting Hutch. He is absolutely brutal and dispassionate when telling wrestler after wrestler "You ain't got it." But there are still enough fun moments in the script to slip in some classic Vaughn snark and one-liners. Meanwhile, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is a co-producer on this and appears as himself in two key scenes to help Saraya along on her journey.

I do think the film becomes a bit too simplistic in spots. Did Saraya's ultimate moment to step up REALLY happen that way? It seemed out of the blue and ... uh ... a bit unearned at that point. Also, the film clearly acknowledges that pro wrestling is scripted and staged. So, did Saraya know going into her climactic bout that ultimately made her a star that the script was slanted that way? As depicted in the film, it seems she is surprised by the outcome and had to actually work at achieving the final result.

Otherwise, this is a fine film, a real crowd-pleaser, and quite the kick to the head ... in a good way! I give it a 7 out of 10. (T. Durgin).