2010-11-05 14:16

What it's about:

A nerdy teenager takes up school wrestling as a way of reconnecting with his estranged brother.

What we thought:

When you consider just how many perfectly good films go straight to DVD, entirely bypassing a theatrical release, you have to wonder just how on earth Legendary managed to escape this fate. Not only is it a demonstrably rubbish film, it's one that is clearly begging to be shown at some ungodly hour on the Hallmark-or-whatever-it's-calling-itself-now Channel. I realise it's been five years and I should probably get over it but it's still infuriating to note that while this TV movie of the week somehow earned its place on your local big screen, Joss Whedon's excellent sci-fi western Serenity was relegated to the small screen in this country. Who the hell decides these things?

But I digress: it doesn't particularly matter where you see Legendary because big screen or small, it's still a total stinker of a film. That it's basically a well-intentioned, warm-hearted stinker of a film doesn't particularly help matters all that much either. There may have been more obnoxious, more detestable and just plain worse films released the year but that doesn't change the unfortunate truth that there is little to recommend about the film. It's not horrible then but, man, oh man, is it lame.

Sure, it has a plot that is the very definition of generic but it's hardly fair to criticise a sports drama for being, well, a sports drama. What isn't so forgivable is that it so obstinately refuses to do anything interesting, entertaining or witty with its well-worn premise. We already have a cliché-filled plot but do we really need dialogue that is this cringe-worthy, this banal? More troubling, do we really need to have dialogue this bad coupled with bland, lifeless direction in a film that doesn't even hint towards an ability to laugh at itself and exhibits no sense of fun whatsoever?

The acting is nothing to write home about either as it ranges between veteran actors (Danny Glover and Patricia Clarkson) struggling vainly to do anything with the lacklustre material they are saddled with to a wooden performance from our central protagonist, played by Devon Graye, to a truly awful Madeleine Martin whose deadpan delivery may be a perfect fit for TV's wonderfully sardonic and irreverent Californication but is staggeringly miscast here. As for John Cena, he may be a great wrestler but he's not much of an actor. He's built like a boulder and unfortunately has all the screen presence of one as well. Not that I'd ever tell him that to his face, of course.

Being a sports movie, it is also let down by the least likely of places: the wrestling itself. Now, I'm no wrestling fan – in fact, the last time I watched wrestling, the WWE was still called the WWF – but I can't imagine that it's normally this boring. We are talking about a sport that consists of two blokes in hilarious, skin-tight uniforms knocking each other about in a manner that would have Freud squealing with glee, so why does Legendary make it look so boring?                      

If you're really looking for a knock-about sports drama/coming of age story worth your time, Drew Barrymore's directorial debut Whip It recently came out on DVD and is a real gem of a film, filled with all the great characters, excellent performances, fun roller derby set-pieces, solid laughs and equally solid drama that Legendary has absolutely none of. As for the come-on-I-can't-believe-they-actually-name-it-that Legendary, I have no doubt that in no time it will be exactly where it deserves to be: clogging up the bottom shelf of your local DVD store.

A warm-hearted but utterly uninspired sports drama starring a superstar wrestler and brought to you by the company he represents - the WWE.

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