Fighting With My Family Review

The world of wrestling was a source of much entertainment for me as a child during the early 2000s. I had the likes of the Rock, Stone Cold, Shawn Michaels and Triple H in their prime and I was absorbed by the stories they were telling. Towards the end of my time following the WWE, I enjoyed the rise of John Cena, Kurt Angle was a big star and Batista was an absolute animal. What’s missing from this troop of names? The females of the WWE. I do not follow it much now except for an annual WrestleMania viewing, but I have heard over the last few years that the Women’s division is the new hot thing in the industry, and not just because of Scantily clad women.

Fighting With My Family tells the true story of WWE Star Paige, delving into the trials she endured on her journey from her English wrestling family to the top of the WWE world. Starring a few unknown actors alongside a couple of familiar faces, this is a film focused very much on Paige’s journey, with the subplot of her families various struggles along the way. Writer and first time Director Stephen Merchant is behind the camera, and as a fan of his work, particularly The Office, so I was looking forward to a witty, cleverly funny script and intrigued by the storytelling ability of Merchant as a director.

Merchant’s first effort behind the camera is excellent, directing the actors brilliant and getting some great performances out of the main cast. Florence Pugh stars as Paige, real name Saraya Knight, giving a performance full of heart and embodies the character well. She’s likable enough to get us on side at the same time as being clearly a bit of a social outcast. You feel like part of her journey and that goes down to both the actress and the direction of Stephen Merchant to get the audience invested in the film.

The other stand out for me is Jack Lowden as Saraya’s brother Zak. His journey is arguably even tougher for him to deal with than his sister’s, and again I felt invested and connected with the struggles he was going through. These two characters act as the heart and soul of the movie, both sharing the first act equally before the movie focuses on Saraya’s journey. Lowden shows a wide range in this performance, with highs and lows being engaging moments.

The side characters of the film include the parents and the WWE coach. First off Nick Frost is funny in his role as the father of the siblings, but I felt he struggled a little to live up to the performances around him in the more emotional scenes. Lena Headey is transformed in the role, with her unrecognisable when compared with the sinister Cercei she plays in Game of Thrones. She is almost the opposite of Frost, thriving in the dramatic scenes and none of her funnier lines really hit me how they should have. Vince Vaughan is the best of the three for me, displaying a blend of the serious acting with his comedic timing that I felt matched the tone of the film just right.

The rise to stardom of Paige is an interesting story to have picked, as even in the film its established as being a reasonably common path. Dwayne Johnson, the biggest star the WWE has produced when it comes to branching outside of the ring, hints at having a similar story himself in this very movie. Whilst it’s easy to appreciate the look at the journey, I don’t necessarily think there is anything shocking or unusual about this story, making it a little bit predictable even if you didn’t know the details beforehand. This wrestlers life after the end of this movie has more drama and twists than the story this film tells, both in the ring and outside of it.

Fighting With My Family delivers a thoroughly entertaining insight into the world of professional wrestling and the hard work required to make it to the top of the chain. The comedic touches of Stephen Merchant really bring the film together. Without those it would have been a solid film, but with them it’s a really good one. Boasting some top performances and a healthy side dish of Dwayne Johnson being himself, Fighting With My Family is a great time.

Good: Excellent performances, well-directed, and some good laughs make this an all rounder of a film.

Bad: Has a predictable and not particularly remarkable story for the wrestling world.

8/10 – Fun for the whole family.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Review 

The original Jumanji film came out over 20 years ago, starring Robin Williams and becoming a hugely popular film with an entire generation. This sequel has gone from a “why are they doing this” to “I actually think it might be good” over the last year. With the duo of the Rock and Kevin Hart involved and adding Jack Black into the mix, I was hoping they could do the original film justice and bring something new as well.

Jumanji’s biggest strength is the chemistry between the four main characters. The three mentioned above are joined by Karen Gillan of Dr.Who and Guardians of the Galaxy fame. They all bounce off each other really well and their willingness to make fun of themselves is what really makes Jumanji work. The majority of the jokes hit for me, and the self depricating humour mixed in with poking fun at video game conventions made me laugh out loud quite a few times throughout.

The video game element brought into this sequel really is a great device that helps to bring Jumanji into the modern day. As a keen gamer, recognising a lot of the tropes of video games added something else to the experience I wasn’t expecting. The bar for video game movies wasn’t very high, but this is probably the best live action video game movie we’ve seen so far. 

If the heroes are the biggest strength, the villain is the biggest weakness. The bad guy is forgettable, and often I forgot he existed until he popped up again on screen. His scenes seem like they’re from a different movie at times, and it didn’t work for me. The goons/ henchmen were more entertaining purely because they acted like video game henchmen do (pretty dumb), and seeing how that was executed on screen is a laugh for gamers. 

The villains plan and therefore the actual task our heroes have set out to do is basic, and full of plot holes. Theres a rock that gives the villain powers when he touches it, but then everyone else who touches it doesn’t get these powers. Except for one moment when someone does. So that’s not been thought through enough for me, and it did have me scratching my head a bit as to what was going on. 

The action in Jumanji is silly, over the top and in the world of the video game that’s been set up, it all makes perfect sense. There is some questionable special effects at times, but the action is engaging enough, if not spectacular. The action is at it best when used for comedic effects, and I think that’s a good parallel for the film as a whole.

Whether it’s Jack Black acting like a teenage girl, or Dwayne Johnson being a nerdy guy, Jumanji excels when it’s focused on making you laugh. The plot is nothing remarkable, serving purely as a vehicle to carry us to the next joke. Jumanji surprised me how much fun I had watching it, I just hope it makes some money for us to return to Jumanji again with these characters, but then releasing the film the week after Star Wars might put a dent in those hopes. Jumanji hits theatres December 20th in the UK. 

Good for: fans of any of the main cast, you get a good serving of them all. Jack black arguably steals the show. Jumanji fans will enjoy how this pays tribute to the original as well.

Bad for: Thin plot and weak villain are a let down. Some jokes may be a little too dirty for younger kids, even if they were the ones that made me laugh the most. 

7/10 – Good fun, Great chemistry carries the film.