I wonder who it was that convinced Vince McMahon that making movies starring the wrestlers… sorry, Superstars, would be a really good money spinner. What are the problems Vince could encounter on this venture? For a start WWE Superstars (ugh) have limited mainstream appeal. Movies are very expensive even for stuff like Knucklehead. WWE Superstars (ick) are not actors, they are performers. These films will never attract a large audience and will struggle to make a profit. So why bother? Obviously Vince is a fan of the artistic medium of cinema of course! Click the jump!
Knucklehead is a film about a 35 year old, 7ft tall, flatulent orphan who never got adopted. For some reason he still lives at the orphanage. He doesn’t work there, he lives there. He’s introduced to us by being suspended from the ceiling dressed as a fairy that’s supposedly the Good Witch of the North in a production of The Wizard Of Oz. This is our main character Walter as portrayed by The Big Show Paul Wight. Meanwhile a MMA trainer called Eddie (Mark Feuestein) is in need of a new fighter in order to pay off a debt owed to a rival fight promoter. This fight promoter, Memphis Earle (Dennis Farina), is some sort of slimebag but really other than wanting money he is owed we aren’t really given a reason to dislike him. Anyway, Eddie is told to pray and that ends him up in the church that Walters orphanage, recently minus one kitchen thanks to a fire Walter started by accident. Eddie is praying for help when suddenly Walter comes crashing through a stained glass window. Eddie has a fighter, Walter needs the prize money to pay for the orphanage repairs before they get shut down so on the road they go. Oh and some random love interest called Mary joins them.
Well they go off traveling their way to New Orleans fighting in any place they can along the way to earn the money needed. Walter is more of a gentle giant though, luckily for him the fights he gets involved in rarely require him to throw a punch. In fact I don’t think he does until the films finale. Eddie gradually trains him and films their exploits to make a star of Walter on Youtube. Funny how the writers of the film figured Youtube would make a star of someone yet WWE seemed dead set against Zach Ryder’s Youtube success. Every fight they get booked in is of course hilarious and bizarre. By which I mean stupid and unfunny. First Walter fights in a match run by Rabbis. Then he fights for a child who promotes fights in his backyard, where Walter promptly tackles the kids father through a fence in a poorly staged attempt at slapstick. Next he’s signed up to fight Bare Knuckle Dave, except he’s actually Bear Knuckle Dave… cos he’s a bear… Ho ho ho! And so the film trundles along. The protagonists get into hijinks whilst the antagonist proclaims that he will stop them getting to New Orleans and then proceeds to not do that. In fact he just turns up at the orphanage and kidnaps Walters best friend who’s name I can’t remember and I can’t figure out who it was based on imdb.
That kid by the way is the first character we are introduced to in the film, he also has a personal antagonist in the orphanage and as such we identify with his plight. He has the potential to be the main character you see, because he has problems and a potential arc. he hies in his Gameboy Advance, which he only seems to have a single original Gameboy game for that makes decidedly un-Gameboy like noises… but I digress. You don’t introduce the audience to a sympathetic character, his antagonist and identify a potential character arc for him only to thrust The Big Show on us and make us accept him as out hero character. The whole film is full of bad writing like this. Stuff just happens with little connective tissue to tie the events together and quite often with repercussions that have no real dramatic impact. For example, Eddie’s gym owning father get’s roughed up by Memphis Earle’s fighter Redrum (Oooh scary name!). A few scenes later he’s talking to Eddie, who’s on a payphone.. I’ll elaborate on that in a mo, telling him to move on to New Orleans and that he’ll be fine. For a start that instantly takes any pressure of Eddie, he doesn’t even mention the potential motivator of payback. To add to that, why is Eddie using a pay phone? How would his father have contacted him at the pay phone? We know Eddie is in contact with his father but if that was via pay phone how did his father know to contact that specific pay phone. Eddie wouldn’t have called the hospital as he wouldn’t have had an idea his father was in trouble. What would have made sense was Eddie calling the gym, finding out his father was in hospital and then visiting the hospital. It would have added tension as the main characters would have had to have set themselves back because something more important has come up. Then have Eddies father be unconscious in the hospital so there’s no way he can tell Eddie that he’s fine. That would leave Eddie in a state and he’d get more serious, possibly going too far, in training Walter setting up future conflict for them.
The conflict in this film is hollow at best and is largely forgotten about by the following scene. Even in the final act we’re given a potential piece of conflict between Eddie and Mary that’s swiftly usurped by the reveal of Earle kidnapping that kid. Memphis Earle puts doubt in Mary’s mind about Eddie potentially being a bit of a dick and then goes and puts himself in a position of being an even bigger dick. That happens in the space of 2 scenes. Conflict should be sustained and be an element that the characters must find solutions for. Not thrown in one scene and disregarded the next. I wonder sometimes if some screenwriters have ever studied the art of storytelling.
The film is incredibly unfunny. Every joke either involves farting, the smell of farts or the act of taking a dump and the ensuing smell. Every none bodily function based joke is either telegraphed way too long, executed poorly or (most of the time) both. the director, Michael W Watkins, comes from television and after perusing his directorial credits I can’t remember any of the episodes he directed of the shows I’ve seen of his. And I watched a lot of The X-Files which he directed 6 episodes of. I get the feeling he’s a bit of a jobbing director, the credit for directing a movie about Prince William is a bit of a give away. He shoots the film in a very workmanlike manner with some poorly staged moments that take any potential humour right out of the scene. Another odd element is that the villain looks oddly like Ted Turner and the main characters name (Walter Kronk) is oddly similar to another of Vince’s enemies, Walter Cronkite. Maybe it’s no coincidence that Walter is a bumbling, shut in, flatulent loser of a man.
Overall the film is formulaic to an incredible degree aping, most obviously, the much better film Kingpin. The script is poor and the performances are lazy and cartoonish at best. Everything about the film is average to the point of banality and then it is dragged down further by the sum of it’s various weaknesses. Of the WWE produced films I have seen this is easily the worst. Yes, worse than The Marine. Hopefully the law of diminishing returns will gradually make Vince realise that trying to make movie stars out of wrestlers on gradually decreasing budgets is a bad idea and he’ll lay that side of his business to rest. That said, the latest film of theirs, That’s What I Am, barely features it’s token wrestler (Randy Orton) and may actually focus on an actual story. Maybe I’ll watch it one day. I doubt it though. I might find the time to watch that other WWE Films comedy Legendary though. You know, the one where John Cena teaches a kid to wrestle. My sides are splitting already.