Universal brings MGM’s Fighting With My Family to Blu-ray, a surprisingly better movie than expected.
The Production: 4/5
When Fighting With My Family arrived for review, I had very low expectations for it. I really don’t care much for professional wrestling and therefore know very little about the WWE, even less about the film’s subject matter – the life of Saraya Knight (aka “Paige”) and how, through chance and perseverance, became the youngest wrestler in WWE history to win the Diva Championship (now known as the WWE Women’s Championship). As the film opens, we learn that Saraya comes from a family of wrestlers, her father Ricky (Nick Frost) and mother Julia (Lena Heady) are wrestlers and own the World Association of Wrestling gym in Norwich, England, and she gets bitten by the wrestling bug when her father is one fight short for an upcoming tournament and has Saraya and her brother Zak (masquerading as a girl) fill the empty slot. Having grown up, Ricky has been submitting tapes of Saraya (Florence Pugh) and Zak (Jack Lowden) to Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn), a scout and coach for the NXT and WWE. Upon seeing the tapes, Hutch invites the two siblings to a tryout session being held in London, agreeing to sign Saraya, who has now taken the stage name of Paige, to an extended training camp in Florida, which could lead to being signed to perform for the NXT and later the WWE, if successful enough. Paige finds it more difficult than she imagined, comes close to quitting when she often feels like an outsider and doesn’t make friends, overcomes those fears and is eventually given a shot at the Diva Championship.
What elevates Fighting With My Family is its family relationships, the Rocky underdog plotting, and the character-driven comedy from director Stephen Merchant’s (the UK version of The Office) screenplay. The film is loosely based on a documentary of the same name that was produced by Britain’s Channel Four covering Saraya Knight’s family (we get to see clips from it during the end credits) that was seen by this film’s producer Dwayne Johnson (who plays himself in an extended cameo). The performances are believable, and the film doesn’t demand that the viewer be familiar with the world of professional wrestling. Universal’s Blu-ray release includes both the Theatrical and Unrated Director’s Cut (which runs a full 3 seconds shorter). I cannot be certain, but having watched the director’s cut, the difference may be a few alternate lines of dialogue.
3D Rating: NA
Fighting With My Family was captured at 2.8K resolution with Arri Alexa XT cameras. Universal’s Blu-ray presents the movie in a film-like and colorful AVC-encoded 1080p transfer that retains the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Colors are vivid and appear natural, with added emphasis during the Wrestlemania sequences with its theatrical lighting and massive big-screen displays. Contrast is very good, providing deep blacks with exceptional shadow detail and bright whites (predominantly in the Florida exteriors) that don’t clip.
Fighting With My Family comes with a fairly standard DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that tends to be rather front-heavy for the most part. Dialogue is clear and understandable, and LFE is used to enhance the body slams and other wrestling moves featured in the film. The track really comers to life during the few live arena sequences, with added acoustics and crowd noise.
Special Features: 3/5
Deleted & Extended Scenes (1080p; 8:53): Six scenes are featured – Zak Chases Ez – Extended, Dinner with the Knights – Extended, Heavy Lifting, You’ve Changed, Introducing Augustus Heights, and Paige Talks Smack.
Gag Reel (1080p; 2:42)
A Family’s Passion: A Making-Of (1080p; 8:53): A brief look at the making of the movie.
Learning the Moves (1080p; 3:18): A very brief look at the training for the cast and stunt team, featuring interview footage with the real Saraya Knight.
Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Stephen Merchant: Available with either the theatrical or director’s cut, Merchant discusses the project, how he got involved, his research (he knew nothing about professional wrestling), and making the movie.
DVD Copy: The theatrical cut in 480p and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, plus all of the above special features.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy on iTunes.
I was not really expecting to enjoy Fighting With My Family, and instead found a warm and humorous surprise. Universal’s presentation in excellent (as has been the case more often than not recently), and the extras at least have some thought and care placed into them.