Fighting with My Family (PG-13)
Yeah, so it’s predictable and the characters tend to be a bit stock, but this is one fun movie about a real-life person. Florence Pugh stars brilliantly as professional wrestler Paige (aka Saraya Knight) with a wrestling family back in Norwich, England. Her brother, Zak (Jack Lowden), is already a male professional wrestler and the two are paired in tryouts in the UK for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Of all the English aspirants, only Paige makes the cut and becomes the youngest (at 21) English woman to make the WWE. (That’s not really a spoiler. If you are even half aware, you know that’s going to happen!)
Through envy of the figures and hairstyles of her female competitors to an attitude and image change (dying her hair blonde), Paige decides to struggle on. She comes back to training after a hiatus with her family in the UK.
All of this is predictable, but it is done so well and Pugh is so earnest and charming that it is easy to buy the act. (Paige’s real career is far more controversial than the film portrays, but there were only two hours for the film.)
The supporting cast is splendid: Nick Frost as Paige’s ex-con father Ricky, her sympathetic but not clearly understanding the WWE mother (Lena Headley) and most particularly Lowden as the crushed aspirant to the WWE. They make the story as believable as any story about professional wrestling can be.
You’ll be glad to know that British wrestling is as phony as the American strain: “We give our public the chance to escape from the real world.” Or, as Vince Vaughn (Hutch) explains it, “Wrestling is soap opera in spandex.”
I could not stop smiling and laughing throughout this film. The effective cuts between Orlando where the WWE tryouts are being held, to Norwich and back again were touching and very effective and everybody in this production appeared to sincerely want to be in it. I know, “It’s professional wrestling!!” but it is also a great, well-made story.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (PG)
I’m usually lenient with kids’ films, but this one is so unbalanced and difficult for the younger set that I couldn’t see encouraging you to see it.
The first rendition of the Viking saga (with Scottish accents) established Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) as the leader of the new generation of Vikings. This one establishes his love for Astrid (America Ferrara) and sets the Vikings (still with Scottish accents) and their dragons on a search for a new, more secure location. They have to be safe from the evil Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) and his band of dragons.
Yes, one dragon looks pretty much like another, which is one reason why this film is so confusing. Most of the Viking-dragon battles are fought in the dark and it is very difficult to pick out who’s winning and who’s losing.
Then there’s the matter of the love story between Night Fury and Light Fury. They are two dragons, Night the favorite of Hiccup and Light the favorite of Grimmel. As a matter of fact, Light is sent to seduce Night and she does a good job of it, then turns turncoat and goes off with him and leaves Grimmel Fury-less.
Then there’s the matter of character names. With names like Gobber, Snotlout, Fishlegs, Ack, Hoark and Griselda the Grevious [sic], who’s to know one from the other? Somebody in the production crew was in love with elegiac, soaring aspects of the love story between the two dragons and let them go on too long, the battles were blurs and the whole story predictable, if messily told. Not the best of the two films and, hopefully, the last.