Fighting With My Family arrives in Cineworld this Friday and recounts an unlikely yet inspirational true story of WWE fame.
Produced by Dwayne Johnson and directed by Stephen Merchant, it recounts the journey of Saraya-Jade Bevis, a Norwich wrestler who went on to become a global WWE superstar under the moniker Paige.
The quick-witted and big-hearted movie features an excellent cast, led by Lady Macbeth's Florence Pugh as Saraya-Jade herself. In support are Jack Lowden as her brother Zak, Nick Frost as dad Patrick, Lena Headey as mother Julia, Vince Vaughn as WWE trainer Hutch and, in an amusingly self-effacing cameo, Johnson as himself.
No doubt many of you are curious to see the meeting of minds between Johnson and Merchant – in fact, critics agree the movie is a feel-good triumph.
"Fighting With My Family may not be an Oscar contender but it has enough wit, heart, energy and good cheer to make it a fun watch even for non-wrestling fans," writes Dennis Harvey in Variety. "What prevents it all from being as hokey as WWE wrestling events themselves is the warmth and good humour Merchant brings to the material, as well as the excellent cast. Everyone here makes the most of some decent throwaway banter, albeit none quite so much as Frost. Vaughn is in good form in a role tailor-made for his caustic comic flair; Johnson pops in for a couple of genial, flashy cameos."
"Like its amiable, irresistible ménage, Fighting With My Family softens its rougher edges with humour," explains New York Times journalist Manohla Dargis. "It’s often broadly funny but never mean or patronising; it takes the Knights, their eccentricities and quixotic aspirations seriously, but not enough to squelch the fun... Merchant doesn’t seem keen to score political points, but he nevertheless quietly delivers some truths amid the laughter and hurt."
Nick Allen, writing for RogerEbert.com, is similarly enthused: "While Fighting With My Family boasts a guru-presence cameo by Dwayne Johnson, a whole lot of funny talent performing athletic slapstick, and even some laugh-out-loud shade at Vin Diesel, the key to WWE Studios’ best film yet is the co-creator behind shows like Hello Ladies and The Office. Merchant’s mind for sharp dialogue and character-based comedy proves to be an essential muscle for this feel-good true story."
"The boastful, performative nature of WWE, spiked with mini dramas and constant role-playing, becomes the lingua franca of an atypical household in Fighting With My Family," writes Joshua Rothkopf in Time Out, describing the movie as "the sweetest of comedies despite a sizeable number of body slams".
Rolling Stone journalist David Fear says of Pugh's performance: "Paige is the sort of role that requires her to be vulnerable, tough, rebellious, funny, determined, drained, someone capable of executing a move called 'The Paigeturner,' everyone’s little sister and the sort of larger-than-life performer that can command an arena."
He adds: "She lets you see where all of this springs from, and how it’s all part of the same misfit. You’d be advised to see it for Pugh’s fireplug turn alone, which makes the just-north-of-oddball take on a warhorse narrative, The Rock’s charm-offensive cameos and a really choice Vin Diesel dig almost feel like bonuses."
We'll end with this from L.A. Times reviewer Justin Chang: "The subsequent impact on Zak and Paige’s relationship is observed with painful honesty and a clear-eyed grasp of the brutal politics of the sport. For all its head-bashing stunts and groin-centric humour, Fighting With My Family strikes its emotional beats with a surprisingly delicate touch.
"Merchant, a writer, director and actor who honed his funnyman chops with Ricky Gervais on The Office and Extras, has a deft way with tonal misdirection; he keeps the laughs and the tears in separate corners before gradually bringing them into collision."
That's a sampling of the critical responses and soon we'll be able to hear your verdict. Click here to book your tickets for Fighting With My Family, opening this Friday in Cineworld, and tweet us your reactions @Cineworld.