I was fortunate enough this week to win two free tickets, courtesy of 101WKQX, to an early show of Fighting With My Family last night in Chicago. It was an awesome experience from the get go. There were only a limited number of tickets given away for the showing so the theater was only about half full. 101 WKQX DJ Kevin Kellam served as the host for the evening and came out to ask some fun Paige-based trivia games to the crowd. After a few fans won commemorative towels and cups they wound up giving everyone there some as well. This was definitely an audience filled with pro wrestling fans and we all got some VIP treatment to get us in the mood for the movie.
Overall, I really enjoyed Fighting With My Family a great deal. If you are fan of pro wrestling, in particular WWE, I don't know how can't have a fun time with this one. Like I said, this was an audience of pro wrestling fans and the movie got treated as such. There were audible boos, cheers and applause at different points and it made for an altogether much more fun experience. I hope you are lucky enough to get some fun folks in the theater when you get to watch it yourself.
Up until now the most popular pro wrestling movie since Ready 2 Rumble has been The Wrestler. A dark, gritty look at the harsh downswing that comes from being an aging 80s pro wrestler. While it's hard to argue The Wrestler isn't an all time classic let's admit, it's a little bleak. What The Rock and WWE try to say with Fighting With My Family I think is, "While that is the tale for some in this industry it's not necessarily the tale for all."
Fighting With My Family presents a much more positive look at the world of pro wrestling, and WWE. Vince Vaughn plays the role of Hutch Morgan, a WWE talent scout and agent who is the one to discover Paige. When Morgan first meets Paige she's noticeably timid and seems to only be a pro wrestler because that's what her family does. Through some tough love, Vaughn is key in helping to push her to become the Superstar she is now. Vaughn is really great in this role. His comedy chops play well in the colorful world of pro wrestling and in the most dramatic moments of the film, he helps to bring some gravitas.
In general, there are no weak actors in the movie. It's definitely a much lighter look at the world of pro wrestling but that doesn't mean it's not a ton of fun. The Rock makes a few cameos throughout, and is great, but it's really the Knight family that steals the movie. Nick Frost and Lena Headey are an absolute delight to watch in the roles of Paige's parents. Frost in particular does an incredible job of capturing the energy of an aging street tough trying to make good. When he cries... you may cry too.
Florence Pugh does justice to the role of Paige. Almost instantly you get sucked into her as the character, she's compelling and believable throughout. Her chemistry with Jack Lowden, who plays her brother Zak "Zodiak", makes for some of the best parts of the film. If anyone is the "Mickey Rourke" of this movie, it's Zak. His struggle to deal with his much more successful younger sister, who is getting to live HIS dream, is really compelling stuff. There's definitely parallels between Zak and Randy The Ram but I don't want to spoil the film.
I'd be remiss if I didn't "put over" the exceptional work Stephen Merchant did in directing this film. His British timing and wit really shines through and keeps it moving. I couldn't leave my seat for fear of missing something and the time absolutely flew by. I was lucky enough to interview Merchant's composer for the film, Vik Sharma, on a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast. He had the following to say about working with Merchant on the film, Fighting With My Family, there are loads of jokes and it's funny, but it's also serious and quite moving. And so, this was sort of like an opportunity to dip into a sort of a more serious style as well. That's what I was doing, sort of the more comedic stuff. The thing about Stephen Merchant is that it's character driven. His comedies are more character driven, so it's not comedy music per se."
Sharma added this about the tone he was looking to set with the music for the movie, "It wouldn't be right for Paige to do Tchaikovsky, to do John Williams, to do strings or anything like that. We went another way entirely." They really did. The hard rock soundtrack throughout definitely serves as a pulse for the film keeping the blood flowing.
If you are a pro wrestling fan, or just like fun movies, go see this in the theater. It was an absolute blast that leaves you feeling great. Highly recommended. You can listen to my full interview with Fighting With My Family composer Vik Sharma in the embedded audio player below.