A sports film's familiar hold
By Stephanie Merry
Friday, September 10, 2010
The inspirational sports drama is a genre that, while guaranteed to get the waterworks going, doesn't typically offer many surprises. Such is the case with "Legendary," with one exception. Instead of karate, football or boxing, the movie introduces the audience to the world of wrestling.
The requisite underdog comes in the form of Cal Chetley (Devon Graye), a 135-pound Oklahoma teenager with a love for science, glasses and a best friend who might as well be called Dweeby McArgyle. Enter bullies, stage left. Partly due to his tormenters and also because Cal is part of a wrestling dynasty -- both his estranged brother and his late father were mega-champs -- he decides that he, too, will hit the mat. As it turns out, and it always does, Cal isn't very talented. But if there's one clear takeaway from any good sports movie, it's that only one thing stands between a dismal athlete and a golden trophy; young grasshoppers just need a mentor. That would be the aforementioned brother, Mike, played by WWE superstar John Cena.
Wrestling fans will no doubt flock to see this WWE film and won't be disappointed by Cena's entrance. Working in construction and wielding a blowtorch, he whips off his protective mask to unveil a square jaw and thigh-sized neck as if he can hear the whoops from ladies in theater audiences across America. Mike is a formulaic ne'er-do-well, which means he shacks up with a slew of hussies, gets into bar fights, lives in a trailer and swills beer. In short, he has nothing to live for until Cal comes along hoping to mend family ties while learning the art of the reverse cradle.
What follows is exactly what you might expect, right down to the montage of blindfolded tussling, jogging and high-fives to the tune of unrelenting inspirational music.
Despite the hackneyed script by John Posey, "Legendary" is not without merit, and the story works fairly successfully as a family drama between Cal, Mike and their single mother, played by the dependable Patricia Clarkson. Meanwhile, Graye's Cal carries an endearing earnestness that will have the audience rooting for the little guy, and the movie gets a little injection of quirk thanks to Cal's lady friend Luli, played with offbeat charm by Madeleine Martin, better known as deadpan daughter Becca Moody from TV's "Californication."
And while theater-goers will probably leave "Legendary" feeling like they've seen it all before, maybe that familiarity is part of the appeal of the genre. It's like cinematic comfort food. Even if you've had it a hundred times before, there's something to be said for the certainty of a feel-good experience.
Contains brief nudity and fighting scenes.