Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Fighting With My Family - Director’s Cut Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Written and directed by Emmy Award winner Stephen Merchant (“The Office”), Fighting With My Familyis a heartwarming comedy based on the incredible true story of WWE Superstar Paige (Pugh). Born into a tight-knit wrestling family, Paige and her brother Zak (Lowden) are ecstatic when they get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try out for WWE. But when only Paige earns a spot in the competitive training program, she must leave her family and face this new, cut-throat world alone. Paige’s journey pushes her to dig deep, fight for her family, and ultimately prove to the world that what makes her different is the very thing that can make her a star.
Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Wrestling: It’s not fake, it’s fixed.

Zak Knight/Zak Zodiac (Jack Lowden) and his sister Saraya (Florence Pugh) have grown up in the wrestling ring. They hand out flyers and gather local British crowds to see them battle. They train other local kids and help them stay out of trouble. It’s always been Zak and Saraya’s dream to wrestle for the WWE in America. With one brother in prison, the family has remained very close.  

The real-life Knight family was detailed in the documentary The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family, which was the inspiration for the feature film.  Mother Julia (Lena Headey) and Father Patrick (Nick Frost) are also wrestlers. Although Zak has a baby on the way his true dreams lie with the WWE.  When their tape makes its way to trainer Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughan) they get their shot, and Saraya learns that her current stage name, Brittany, is already taken. Try-outs begin and Saraya becomes Paige in the ring.

The siblings have grown up together and have a life planned around the WWE. All they have ever wanted was to be signed but only one of their dreams comes true. Paige moves on, but finds the process of training and fitting in with models and cheerleaders to be difficult. Back home, Zak doesn’t deal well with the crushing disappointment of his broken dreams.

You might think that Lena Headey and Nick Frost are overdoing the parental figures, but the documentary shows how accurate these portrayals really are. The siblings have great chemistry. They really feel like brother and sister who love and hate each other, depending on the moment and sometimes they do both at the same time. Vince Vaughn is believable as the tough love giving trainer and The Rock provides both humor and heart.

For someone who doesn’t watch or care about wrestling at all, I found a lot to enjoy in this film. It’s heartbreaking to see Paige beg Hutch to take her brother. I enjoyed watching her struggle and succeed in the wrestling world. She’s a very tough girl who cries at the airport leaving her family, as do her parents. The film is very well written with subtle moments that are game changing. Stephen Merchant’s dark humor is the perfect way to tell this story.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Fighting With My Family Blu-ray is clear and consistent. The difference is slight between the two formats. The range of colors in the film isn’t dramatic but saturation and overall stability should be complimented. Julia’s red hair stands out more than any WWE costume. Skin tones are even and Paige is believable as the both the pasty Brit and the bottle-tanned newcomer in Florida. Black levels are good and noise levels are minimal.
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is very good and provides remarkable consistency. You’ll hear the wrestlers his the mat and each other with authenticity. Dialogue is intelligible and really hits home when Zak gets angry and yells at Hutch. The crowd at the Staples Center offers a chance to appreciate direct volume and muffled crowds when Paige is in the locker room.
Extras (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The short list of extras is definitely worth the watch and it’s interesting to see that some of the funniest and most touching moments came from real-life.
  • Version – Theatrical or Director’s Cut
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes (8:54 total runtime) Available individual or with play all function:
    • Extended – Zak Chases EZ and Dinner with the Knights
    • Deleted – Heavy Lifting, You’ve Changed, Introducing Augustus Heights and Paige Talks Smack
  • Gag Reel (2:42) – On set laughs, during and in between takes.
  • A Family’s Passion: A Making-Of (8:53) – Director Stephen Merchant and Producer/Actor Dwayne Johnson talk about the documentary that started it all.  The featurette includes interviews with the actors and their real life counterparts. The importance of proper casting is highlighted, along with the warmth of the story, and the process of learning to wrestle.
  • Learning the Moves (3:18) – On screen Paige, real life Paige and her stunt double talk about the hard work and daily rehearsals that made the action believable.
  • Feature Commentary – Writer/Director Stephen Merchant provides an amusing and informative feature length audio commentary.
Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Fighting With My Family is the most surprising film I’ve seen this year. Usually, I know what I’m getting in to and I had no idea that I would appreciate a film about wrestling. I gave it a chance because I love Dwayne Johnson, just not enough to have ever watched him wrestle. The film has very good storytelling and the Blu-ray is technically sound. Recommended.

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