Wrestling movies can be a tough watch. It’s a widely known fact that the pseudo-sport is scripted, which often leads to screenwriters using the films as a vehicle to make fun of pro wrestling and its fans. Sometimes it’s innocent fun like Body Slam and other times it’s mean spirited like Ready to Rumble. There are exceptions, like Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, but these are few and far between. Will Fighting With My Family be another bad pro wrestling movie or will it rise above the rest?
Fighting With My Family is a rags-to-riches comedy about Saraya-Jade Bevis, better known to WWE fans as Paige. Since the age of 13, Saraya has been a wrestling fan who has dreamed of joining WWE. She comes from a family of professional wrestlers, with her brother Zack being the best prospect to become a success on the big stage. When the two siblings are called by WWE for a tryout, the newly named Paige is forced to make some difficult decisions.
The premise only leaves an opportunity for very few story options, and Fighting with My Family chooses the most obvious one.: this is an underdog story. The pale-skinned, undersized Paige competes with blonde, buxom, tanned models for a roster spot. It’s obvious from the beginning who the audience should be rooting for.
Just because a movie is cliché doesn’t mean it’s bad, though. Fighting With My Family is a great movie about overcoming the odds, and the plot makes sure to hit all the right emotional moments. Self-doubt, seemingly being bullied by others, preconceptions, and having to make her family proud are all issues Paige must deal with. Everything happens exactly as it you would expect.
The writing is what makes the movie a success. The moments we are seeing may be familiar, but they are not lazy retreads. Fighting With My Family never misleads into audience. The story takes its audience on a journey without manipulating their emotion. This transparency allows potentially cheesy dialogue like “don’t be the next me, be the first you” to work.
The movie also has great pacing. Interspersed between well-shot training montages are scenes in which Paige’s odd family is showcased. The film allows viewers to get to know the characters while also showing Paige try to achieve her dream. This prevents the story from ever getting boring — the film never becomes bogged down with melodrama or extended action sequences.
Fighting With My Family also has a tremendous cast. The chemistry between Nick Frost and Lena Headey is the highlight of the film. The love that they have for each other and their family is abundant and the driving force behind the picture. On top of that, the two are incredibly funny and shine when on screen. Vince Vaughn is hilarious in the time he gets and there are also some electrifying appearances from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
This movie is mainly about Paige’s journey, so the success of the film hinges greatly on the performance of lead actress Florence Pugh. Pugh does a wonderful job of portraying the youngest Divas Champion ever. She is funny and endearing, and she also does a great job of getting across the emotional turmoil Paige is going through. By movie’s end, the entire crowd will be in her corner.
There is one thing that both fans and non fans will question about the movie, though: no one is bathed in a more positive light than WWE. This is not to say the movie should have exposed the ugliest parts of the world’s largest wrestling promotion — Fighting With My Family is certainly not that type of film. However, it does speak volumes that everyone associated with WWE, including the obvious villains, are not bad at all; they are just misunderstood.
Fighting With My Family goes beyond the scope of average wrestling films and manages to be entertaining. The story is paint-by-the-numbers and it would be hard not to believe WWE is the real happiest place on Earth, but the pacing and acting make this a very enjoyable movie. Even those who have never watched a WWE show in their lives will enjoy this feel-good movie.