It's hard not to wonder if WWE films, yep those rambunctious wrestlers, are trying to turn wrestler John Cena into the next Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson with Legendary, their latest film production and a definite move towards family friendly fare that turns away from the rough 'em up and beat 'em up approach of filmmaking that dominated their previous cinematic efforts that include the likes of The Marine, See No Evil and 12 Rounds.
Legendary centers around a young man named Cal (Dexter's Devon Graye) who is your typical 98-pound weakling, a fact that wouldn't be particularly bothersome were it not for the fact that he's the son and brother of former championship wrestlers. To make matters worse, school bullies are on his tail and he decides to join the wrestling team. He enlists help from his hard drinking brother (WWE vet John Cena) despite the hesitation of his mother (Patricia Clarkson). The family has been disconnected since the tragic death of dad 10 years earlier in a car accident.
Can you see where this is going?
Of course you can.
Along the way, a kindly older chap (Danny Glover) shows up with the pre-destined sage and wise advice and, of course, many lessons are learned, relationships are healed and greeting cards are created.
Okay, I made that last part up.
Director Mel Damski, a television vet and it shows, gives Legendary a Hallmark Channel feeling complete with trumped up melodrama, sappy original score and dialogue so freakishly obvious that you can practically sit there and write the script yourself.
Patricia Clarkson is one of the best actresses working today, yet when Clarkson goes off course she seems to go wildly off course. Remember Man of the Year? Clarkson was bloody awful. While she's not necessarily bloody awful here, she is remarkably bland and nondescript in what must either be a case of bad direction or a complete lack of clarity with the character.
The sad thing is that Clarkson is about the only thing worth watching, with Cena's performance not coming close to the quality of a performance by "The Rock." For the record, that is both a compliment and an insult. Cena emotes about as well as this footless paraplegic film critic walks and, in this case, that's entirely an insult. Devon Graye comes out of the entire thing relatively unscathed, though Madeleine Martin's performance as his girlfriend is uncomfortably awkward.
If you fancy yourself a semi-inspirational sports story with the obligatory feel good ending, then Legendary may very well be the film for you. However, beyond its faux inspiration and feel good storyline, Legendary is a film that would have gone straight-to-DVD if not for the marketing power of WWE and Samuel Goldwyn cornering the market on limited release inspirational films.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic