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Review Of John Cena’s Legendary

John Cena is the most charismatic wrestler in WWE. He performs in front of tens of thousands of fans every week wrestling in the ring, talking on the microphone, and sometimes doing horrendous skits written by WWE writers whose sense of comedy is geared towards making five-year-olds laugh.

Thus, if anyone could follow in The Rock’s footsteps into Hollywood, it would probably be John Cena. However, there’s a difference between Cena and Rock. The Rock tried to stay in wrestling while working a light Hollywood schedule, but once Rock started to get bigger parts and Hollywood people gave him the good advice that he should get far away from WWE so that whenever something bad happened to the company his name wouldn’t linked, his appearances became few and far between. Now? He may make one appearance for the company a year. It’s still in his blood, but business-wise, it was the right move to completely leave them behind.

Cena is different. Cena doesn’t want to leave wrestling. He actually has used Rock’s decision as a way to show how much he still loves wrestling. He could try his hand at Hollywood full time and make a go of it, but he’d rather continue doing what he’s doing. I’m sure that makes Vince McMahon happy.

But part of what made Rock’s transition work so well is that he put all of his effort into acting. Cena won’t do that, and that’s probably the reason he’ll never be a big movie star. He’s has a pretty good look, a good name, and realistically comes across as a possible action star, but his acting skills haven’t improved much since his first movie, The Marine, which came out a couple of years ago. And the fact of the matter is (I’m channeling my inner WWE cliche phrasing here), it won’t unless he gives up more time in the ring for being in front of the camera.

Legendary is far more enjoyable than The Marine was. It has heart and is the kind of film you can take your family to. It’s not smart, or unpredictable, and in fact, I think part of the reason I liked it as much as I did is because I kind of knew where it was going. I knew that my kids would enjoy the story and feel inspired coming out of the movie.

John Cena’s character is Mike Chetley, a former successful high school wrestler who has been estranged from his family for ten years, leaving behind his younger brother and his mom. You soon find out that his father passed away around the same time and that the loss is probably the reason for the estrangement. I will give director Mel Damski credit for not really giving all the reasons away early on, even though they are predictable. Cena’s character is pretty mysterious for half the film and it makes the film much more interesting. Mike’s father was also a high school wrestling standout.

Newcomer to film and Bay Area native Devon Graye plays Mike’s younger brother Cal, who out of the blue wants to join the wrestling team to the surprise of his mother. Cal is smart (the glasses may give it away) and not shown as athletic at all. But, he not only has the wrestling in his blood, but he uses the chance to wrestle as a way to get his brother back into his life. According to his Wikipedia page, Graye’s best known for being on the show Dexter.

Their mother Sharon is played by Patricia Clarkson and being that she’s a real actress acting with many newcomers, she goes a bit overboard. Either that, or she just overshadows Graye and Cena in their scenes together. Sharon’s relationship with Cal is odd in that she definitely leans on him for not only support, but also friendship. As the movie goes along, Graye’s scenes with her start to get better and he starts holding his own. But in the beginning, it’s pretty awkward not only because of the dialogue they’ve been given, but they just seem to be on different pages altogether.

Danny Glover plays a throwaway role as Harry Newman, who starts out as someone Cal talks to when he hangs out at a fishing pond. He becomes more important to the film’s story as it goes on, but I’m not entirely sure he was necessary for the film, other than for advertising reasons.

Since the film has an amateur wrestling theme, I automatically thought about using Vision Quest as a comparison, but I haven’t seen that movie in so long, and I don’t remember much of it. The best comparison might be a low rent Karate Kid. Cena’s acting isn’t strong enough to make the movie ultimately memorable, like Pat Morita was as the mentor, but the chances are there. Young Cal goes from pip squeak wrestler to someone who learns the craft. Eventually, his character becomes easy to root for and overall, he’s just likable.

Cal’s given an odd love interest. When Madeline Martin’s Luli originally came on screen, I thought her character was supposed to be of someone who either had special needs, or a terribly socially inept young woman. It may have just been bad writing, but her character eventually evolves somewhat into an underdog “Adrian” type, but it takes a really long time to get there. Her character stands out and not really in a good way.

The movie is in limited release, so if you’re interested in watching it, it may be hard to find. I had to drive about 45 minutes to a discount theater with seats so badly placed that we had to sit in the front row because my kids couldn’t see anywhere else. It is scheduled to only be in the theaters for a few weeks and will be released immediately thereafter to DVD and Blu-ray.

Originally, WWE Films had been releasing their films much wider than this one, but they were losing money, so the idea is for the films to be smaller budget releases with small name directors and very short theater runs. It’s probably for the best and if the preview to Knuckleheads starring The Big Show is any sort of indication of what is upcoming without John Cena, they may soon start skipping theaters all together. That was one of the worst trailers I’ve ever seen.

Legendary is rated PG-13, but it’s a pretty soft one. I was comfortable taking my 9 and 11 year-old kids. We all enjoyed it, even in all of its predictability.

It’s probably a six out of ten and a 2 1/2 to 3 out of five.

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