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Fighting with My Family
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fighting with My Family is a fact-based dramedy about a wrestling family from Norwich, England. Based on the life of WWE superstar Paige, it centers on Raya (Florence Pugh) and her brother, Zak (Jack Lowden), who were raised by hard-living wrestler parents (Lena Headey, Nick Frost) and aspire to join the WWE. Expect some racy humor, a fair bit of strong language (including both British slang and words like "s--t," "d--k," "c--k," and more), minor teen drug dealing, and skimpy outfits. There's also a lot of pro wrestling action (including staged face smashes, chokes, throws, kicks, etc.), as well as more realistic fighting that happens outside the ring. Underneath the rough stuff, though, are strong messages about courage, perseverance, and familial loyalty and support. Writer-director Stephen Merchant also co-stars, along with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Vince Vaughn.
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What's the story?
Based on the true story of pro wrestling superstar Paige, FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY follows a family of rough-hewn wrestlers from Norwich, England. Young Raya (Florence Pugh) doesn't look like the standard WWE supermodel/grappler, but wrestling is in her blood. It's also in the DNA of her loving brother, Zak (Jack Lowden), and adoring-parents-with-sketchy-pasts Julia and Ricky (Lena Headey, Nick Frost). When Raya gets her shot at joining the WWE, can she make it through Coach Hutch's (Vince Vaughn's) demanding program and join the galaxy of WWE stars such as The Rock (Dwayne Johnson as himself)?
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Fighting with My Family. Does the fact that the wrestling action is staged affect how you react to it? Did the movie have an impact on your opinion of pro wrestling?
What would you say are the movie's themes? What did you think of Raya's unconventional family?
If you're familiar with the WWE, you knew going in that Raya would become a star. How did it affect your experience of the film? Did it still hold any suspense for you? Were you able to lose yourself in the moments of her struggle?
- In theaters: February 14, 2019
- Cast: Florence Pugh, Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Lena Headey
- Director: Stephen Merchant
- Studio: MGM
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: crude and sexual material, language throughout, some violence and drug content
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.