A few weeks ago, World Wrestling Entertainment renamed themselves WWE as they look to expand beyond the world of sports entertainment. This is the first movie released since that rebranding and it shows in this film. Every other movie by WWE Studios
has featured a WWE Superstar in either a starring or co-starring role. Randy Orton's role in this film is slightly more than just a cameo appearance.
The movie feels like a long version of The Wonder Years
as we follow a teenage boy in the '60s discovering the great mysteries of life in a coming-of-age movie. He is given an assignment by his teacher that involves him working with an unpopular student. In addition to having to worry about his cooties status by dealing with the unpopular group of students, he also has to deal with a bully, a father that doesn't communicate too well, and his first crush. While all that is going on in his life, his teacher's career is threatened by a rumor that Randy Orton's character threatens to go public with.
While the Wonder Years had seasons to deal with all of these issues, everything feels crammed and forced into this film. Is this movie about bullying, dealing with intolerance, finding your voice, or a boy trying to get his first kiss? As a viewer, it was hard to tell as almost all parts of this film could have used further explanation. The script aspired to be too many things while also borrowing too much stylistically from The Wonder Years.
Since you are reading this review on a wrestling site, I am sure you are most interested in Randy Orton's performance. First off, it was very brief. Secondly, he showed the same range of emotions that he has shown over past few years on RAW. He has mastered the look and intensity of someone that is about to snap and beat you up. While I understand that mood in his dealings with the principal, I have to wonder why he would be watching television in such a bad mood. Unlike me, who is sometimes forced to watch horrible programming for work, Randy could have just changed the channel of whatever show was bothering him so much.
While Orton's performance was just what you would have expected, the good news is that so was the acting of Ed Harris. He is truly one of the greatest actors of our time and has four Academy Award nominations to back up that claim. Unfortunately, I can't imagine why he is doing this movie. The only reason I could think of was that it gave him the chance to work with his wife, Amy Madigan, who also has an Academy Award nomination on her resume.
As far as the kids in the movie go, I really like the chemistry between Chase Ellison and Mia Rose Frampton. His quest to get his first kiss is the highlight of the film for me as it is the only storyline given a chance to develop and it felt natural.
This movie features a four word equation to sum up its goals. It is "Human Dignity + Compassion = Peace". In honor of this film, I too shall use a four word equation to sum up this movie. It is "Wonder Years > This Movie". Overall, I give this film a thumb's down and don't recommend purchasing the DVD/Blu-ray when it comes out. However, if you can see it for $1 on Redbox it is not a horrible way to spend an evening teaching your children about these topics as it is a little more entertaining than an after-school special.
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