Dateworthy? “Fighting With My Family”
Is “Fighting With My Family” worth a date night this weekend? Absolutely. Granted, this movie isn’t a romance. Instead, it’s the true story of the WWE’s first female superstar wrestler. The movie is surprisingly funny, touching and inspiring.
None of us gets the chance to choose the family we’re born into. The new movie “Fighting With My Family” shines a light on a particularly unusual one. Viewers get to know the hardscrabble, working-class British family that served up pro wrestling’s top league with female superstar Paige.
The movie details the story of Paige and how she and her family struggled yet held together in loving support during her arduous rise to fame. “Family” is terrific entertainment for teens and adults and a great movie for family members of those age ranges to see together. It’s also surprisingly entertaining and inspiring enough to be great for older adults who might normally scoff at pro wrestling.
A struggling family finds inspiration in pro wrestling
Paige (Florence Pugh) is the teen daughter alongside two brothers, Zak and Nick. They grow up in a unique working-class family that runs its own low-rent wrestling league in a run down area of England. They watch WWE wrestling from America regularly and with gusto. The family dreams of sending Paige and Zak to the States to wrestle there.
But a sad reality has already affected them. The family’s oldest son, Nick, is spending years in prison for a violent drug-fueled rampage he went on after being rejected at a WWE audition years before.
Paige and Zak nonetheless submit their videos regularly. They hope for an audition. Then, one night they get a call telling them to come out for an audition. American talent scout and coach Hutch (Vince Vaughn) is coming to London.
They excitedly attend, and even more excitedly bump into Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who produces the movie. The siblings receive encouragement from him to become their own star creation: “Don’t be the next Rock. Be the first you.”
In a brutal yet funny audition, a big group of hopefuls face off against each other. But in the end Hutch only picks Paige.
Her brother Zak is devastated. Facing a continued life of hardship with his pregnant girlfriend, he spirals into depression.
Paige heads for her new challenge: facing off against dozens more people in America for the final cut making it in the WWE’s biggest matches. Along the way, she faces particular opposition from four blonde Americans who she believes hate her. But she winds up learning lessons in empathy and teamwork along the way.
“Family” is made by a comedy legend
“Fighting With My Family” is a surprisingly vibrant and extremely entertaining film. It’s far better than one would have any right to expect when hearing that it’s about the life of a pro wrestler.
The reason for this is not only the terrific performance of Pugh in the lead. She’s a star-making turn that’s funny and fierce. But Pugh is emotionally affecting when it needs to be. However, the movie’s success is driven by it’s writer and director, Stephen Merchant. He’s widely considered a comedic genius for co-creating the British version of the classic sitcom “The Office.”
Merchant knows how to make all manner of people come to life in a deeply human way, and then find the funny in them as individuals. He digs deep into the financial struggles and personal pains of Paige’s family. Her father (Nick Frost) is a former convicted thief and her mother (Lena Headey) was a drug abuser until love with her husband straightened her out.
Life pitfalls surround Paige as she sees one brother in prison and another facing life as an unexpected young father. But the movie makes the stakes incredibly real and huge for the young dreamer. This gives the audience a tremendous amount of rooting interest for her that matches the spirit of the best sports underdog movies like “Rocky.”
Vince Vaughn nearly steals the movie with his best and funniest performance in years as the fast-talking coach. Combined with an impressively slimmed-down physique, he looks and acts nearly as great as he did in his 1996 debut with “Swingers,” and this should be a very big comeback for the Catholic actor.
Good (mostly clean) fun at the movies
The movie does feature a fair amount of mid-level foul language throughout. You won’t hear any F words, though. There are several crude taunts that involve sex or bodily functions. But these are mitigated by the fact that all fit the context of the characters’ rough lives and limited formal educations.
The violence is all of the toss-about wrestling variety. There’s no sex on or off screen. Overall this is a movie most should not be offended by. The film serves up healthy doses of positive lessons in family, forgiveness, teamwork, empathy for strangers, and entrepreneurship paying off.
Overall: 8.5 out of 10
Carl Kozlowski is a Catholic comedian, film reviewer, and journalist who is also the founder and co-owner of the podcast station www.radiotitans.com in Los Angeles. He reviews movies for the Catholic News Agency as well as the Christian site Movieguide.org, but has also worked with secular outlets including the Pasadena Weekly, Chicago Tribune and Esquire. He has also produced and hosted comedy shows for the LA Catholic Archdiocese's charities and performed at some of the nation's top clubs and with top comics including Dane Cook and Dave Chappelle. He strives to find the way to work with both Christian and secular audiences in all his career paths.