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By midlandsmovies, Jun 30 2019 09:17PM

Fighting with My Family (2019) Dir. Stephen Merchant

I am very much aware of WWE – who isn’t I guess – but let’s open this review with an acknowledgement of my lack of engagement with what I remember as a kid being called the WWF - before the wildlife fund got all litigious. But you know what? This brilliantly written and directed sports-comedy drama from The Office creator Stephen Merchant is so well-done, even a wrestling ignoramus like myself enjoyed so much of it.

In short, the film dramatizes the life of WWE professional wrestler Saraya "Paige" Knight and begins with her family’s wrestling passion which sees her and her brother compete in the local ring in their hometown of Norwich, England.

A fantastic Lena Headey and hilarious Nick Frost are the ex-wrestler parents who promote and train up-and-coming new prospects in their small gym. But soon Paige has the opportunity to try out for the big league in the USA. With her and her brother (Jack Lowden as Zak) fighting for a spot alongside a host of hopefuls, only Paige is chosen by professional coach Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn) to head to America and pursue her dream.

It’s here the film nicely balances its signature move of the emotional turmoil of Paige’s feuding relationship with her brother whilst also hitting entertaining comedy beats as her outsider is tested ‘Rocky-style’ in a series of endurance events and training montages.

Paige is played by a dazzling Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth, Outlaw King & soon-to-be-released horror Midsommar) and she brings warmth, charm and feistiness to a well-rounded character in charge of her own destiny. With her alternative/goth-y looks, she battles all-American ex-models for the limelight and her go-getting attitude faces-off against an alliance of personal and professional struggles.

British family-issues and a theme of helping the local community sit comfortably with the glitz and glamour (and sweat) of the wrestling world stage. And Merchant gives each narrative point enough time to shine in his cinematic ring before pushing the fun story forward. A welcome, and very comical, cameo from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson also brings some Hollywood gravitas to a slightly quaint overcoming-the-odds narrative but the film is always charming and appealing throughout.

Whilst doing nothing spectacularly new, it gets by on so much heart and has funny (and when needed, dramatic) scenes that mean audiences will empathise with the characters from the outset.

With crowd-pleasing humour, a tender heart and some affected drama, the film is brought to life with a simple and engaging directorial style from Merchant but the excellently delivered performance from the whole cast is the real contest winner here.

And with all that going for it, Fighting with My Family ends up winning the title belt for best comedy of 2019 so far.


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Jul 6 2016 07:34AM

Central Intelligence (2016) Dir. Rawson Marshall Thurber

From the director of Dodgeball and We’re The Millers comes a new comedy film starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart as old school friends who meet up many years later in a world of secretive espionage. Hart plays Calvin Joyner, a popular student star athlete who helps out Robbie Wheirdicht (Johnson) after bullies strip him naked in front of the rest of the school by lending him his sports jacket.

I cannot go further without saying that in this sequence The Rock as a young overweight boy is frankly one of the weirdest CGI creations I’ve ever seen – maybe worse than even The Rock’s Scorpion King. You’ve got to see it to believe it I guarantee. Flash forward 20 years and the grown up Hart has failed to achieve his potential and now works as a put-upon computer lackey in a law firm who is now picked on by his own office bullies. A chance meeting via Facebook and with a planned school reunion party on the cards and Calvin and Bob arrange to catch up. The out of shape shy boy from the past has moulded himself into, well, The Rock and suddenly reveals his new found CIA skills during a violent bar punch-up.

The role reversal story is a simple but effective set up as The Rock drags Hart’s character along for a ride (wait, wrong Kevin Hart film) as he goes rogue after accused of killing his partner by his former employers.

So, how does a person who has liked precisely zero of the films made by both leads expect to enjoy this film was the question I had to ask myself? Well, with much difficulty it seems.

Kevin Hart is so not my cup of tea at all (although to be fair he reigns in most of his “flailing/screeching” act here) and despite The Rock’s huge likeability, the man has yet to make a more than average film. Ultimately I really wanted to be proven wrong but this below-par film continues the long list of mostly terrible US comedy films that get released each year showing why it is currently in the doldrums.

The tiniest bit of chemistry has the addition of endless “whoas” and “way-heys” but Central Intelligence is oh so dull despite the excitable looks on the leads’ faces. The positives? Well it has some semblance of a plot and there isn’t a whole load of “improv” that taints so many modern US comedy films. Sadly, puerile after puerile gag falls flat and the initial weird-but-interesting relationship between the leads descends into a calamitous mess.

It’s rather bland and my laugh count was a humungous two. That’s two. TWO! In the end, I found the film an unmemorable and unfunny flop. To be fair, comedy is possibly the most subjective of genres but where is another Hot Fuzz, Anchorman or a Four Lions? Simple but ingenious ideas laced with creativity in their filming and their witty scripts? Eventually, all that can be said is that Central Intelligence, despite its juicy premise and admirable efforts, has had the majority of the humour redacted.


Midlands Movies Mike

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