Everybody knows the Knight family in Norwich. Ricky (Nick Frost) and his wife Julia (Lena Headey) run a local wrestling gym and the whole family, including kids Zak (Jack Lowden) and Saraya (Florence Pugh), stage wrestling events. They're eccentric and dad's worried he'll have to go back to robbing banks if business doesn't pick up. When the WWE comes to London for tryouts, Zak and Saraya are over the moon, especially when they get personal advice from The Rock himself, but when trainer Hutch (Vince Vaughn) only chooses Saraya to move on, she gets a new perspective on "Fighting with My Family."
Developed by Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson after he caught a documentary on the family (and actually helped the newly dubbed Paige achieve her dream, just as is seen in the movie), "Fighting with My Family's" underdog sports story has been given loads of charm and humor by writer/director Stephen Merchant (of the original, British 'The Office,' who also stars as Knight family in-law Hugh). After her rebellious turn in art house bodice ripper "Lady Macbeth," Pugh's feisty yet self-doubting performance here seals her talent as the real deal. Jack Lowden, who some may recognize from "Dunkirk" or "Mary Queen of Scots," is also strong as the loving brother who gets into a bad head space when his dream is denied.
With a dad who sports a buzz cut Mohawk and a pink haired mom with a lip ring, both attired in black leather and tattoos, Zak and Saraya (her mom's wrestling moniker) haven't had a traditional upbringing. Yet although all four family members convincingly pound each other in the ring, we can feel their love and affection for one another. They're beloved by their community as well, Zak coaching a bunch of local youths, even teaching Calum (Jack Gouldbourne), who's blind, to break out of a headlock and turn the tables on his aggressor.
The family is faced with their own "La Cage Aux Folles" moment meeting the straight-laced parents of Zak's more traditional girlfriend Courtney (Hannah Rae), who is expecting his child. Hugh and Daphne (Julia Davis of HBO's 'Sally4Ever') don't know what to make of this tribe and haven't a clue what the WWE is. They get a real crash course when the WWE calls during dinner to offer Zak and Saraya a London audition, Zak assuring Courtney they'll be living the life of Riley.
Tensions are introduced when only Saraya is offered the trip to the WWE's NXT boot camp in Orlando, Zak refusing to believe he won't be considered, Ricky already figuring out how to profit off his daughter's new status. The girl with the Goth Rock look arrives in Florida and finds herself a true wrestler surrounded by the blonde sun-tanned models and cheerleaders that are the WWE's stock in trade. Saraya, having taken the moniker Paige, looks down on their abilities, but gets pushback from Hutch when she gives one of them a 'receipt,' a slap delivered for landing a blow too hard. And although Jeri-Lynn (Kim Matula), Kirsten (Aqueela Zoll) and Maddison (the WWE's Ellie Gonsalves) were initially welcoming, Paige's failure to look beyond their surfaces comes back to bite her. The first time the WWE wrestlers-in-training are put before a crowd, the blondes fare much better, Paige freezing in the face of catcalls calling her 'Ozzy Osbourne' and a 'dead grandmother.' When she returns home for the holidays, she has no intention of returning, something which sends already depressed new dad Zak around the bend.
"Fighting with My Family" is a warm and messy, a sprawling family sports saga where the oddest of oddballs find their niches. Merchant and his cast have created the very definition of a crowd pleaser, whether you're a fan of the WWE or not.
Robin did not see this film.
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