This funny, heartfelt movie represents a huge step up for WWE Studios. To date, World Wrestling Entertainment has mostly been a conveyor belt for violent macho fantasies (The Marine through The Marine 6: Close Quarters) and low-bar humor (Santa's Little Helper, Jingle All the Way 2). Fighting with My Family is something totally different: a genuinely well-made film about a family. That's due largely to the writing and direction of Stephen Merchant, who's probably best known for co-creating the original version of The Office. Merchant's script follows the contours of a scrappy-underdog sports movie, but it's also filled with quirky details about Raya/Paige's family (all wrestlers) and class differences in England. Before Zak brings his fiancée's parents over for dinner, for example, he begs his parents to clean up their act a little. He asks of his dad, "Can he put on a shirt?" To which jolly, mohawked, alcoholic ex-con Ricky bellows, "How posh are they?" Most important, Merchant and his cast convincingly create a family. Viewers believe that these people have loved each other forever and that this is a lifelong dream.
Pugh is great in the lead role. She allows herself to be "unpretty," both physically and in the mistakes Paige makes. As her loving but deeply frustrated brother, Lowden (Dunkirk) is charming and complex. Both seem headed for big things. Headey and Frost are endearing and lively as their parents, Vaughn is well-cast as the tough coach, and Merchant is funny in a small, all-reaction role as the fiancée's dad. The movie's wrestling action, including the training, is enjoyable. While it may be hard to deeply invest in the outcome of fixed matches (just don't call them "fake," at least not around Paige's clan), the film sufficiently involves us in Paige's struggles so that predetermined "winning" and "losing" outcomes are secondary to the experience.