Here is a shamelessly formulaic product brought to you by WWE studios and meant to benefit the wrestling company by promoting its brand while also telling the chase-your-dreams true story of its real-life superstar wrestler Paige. Cue in the familiar sports-movie clichés, because “Fighting With My Family” uses plenty of them.
The film’s been written and directed by Stephen Merchant (this guy really loves to use montages) and is almost, but not quite, saved by an adorably persistent performance courtesy of Florence Pugh (dynamite in “Lady Macbeth”) as Saraya-Jade Bevis aka Paige. Pugh plays it straight, with no over-the-top theatrics, but instead, a wide-eyed kid-like optimism which captures the look, sound and feel of a WWE female champion that is completely out of her league with the company’s brand of feminine “divas.”
Julia “Sweet Saraya” (Lena Headey) and Patrick “Rowdy Ricky Knight” (Nick Frost) play her parents, and her older brother, Zak “Zodiac” is played by Jack Lowden, but whenever the film turns towards their own London working-class plight, where they manage their own low-rent wrestling league, the film falters in keeping our attention. It’s the grueling boot camp of the farm league, which the WWE has invited Saraya-Jade to, that is the crux of Merchant’s Cinderella-story.
The fact that Merchenat decides to periodically check back in with Zak on the home front, killing time by training young wrestlers, does a disservice to the momentum being built by Pugh’s tale and feels like filler rather than a narrative necessity. There’s a two-scene cameo by The Rock, playing himself, and a decently-delivered payoff when Paige finally makes her big Raw debut, but the film is so overstuffed with clichés that the journey feels, in more ways than one, like an insufferable smackdown to our IQs. [C]