Movies don’t come more generic than “Legendary,” the first of a pair of films out of the WWE stable in the next few weeks (the less said about the upcoming “Knucklehead” the better).
This isn’t paint by numbers – it’s color by numbers, with dull crayons. The only reason to see it is if you happen to want to be a Patricia Clarkson completist. As good as she always is, she’s not in this movie enough to warrant the price of an admission ticket. Perhaps a home-video rental.
Clarkson is the matriarch of a small-town Oklahoma family – or more accurately, the mother to a teen-age boy named Cal (Devon Graye, who played the teen Dexter on “Dexter”). Cal is a bit of a nerd, who decides to give his high school’s wrestling team a try, though he’s never done anything remotely athletic.
But he figures he’s got genetics on his side. His late father was a state wrestling legend as both an athlete and a coach. And his older brother, Mike (John Cena of WWE fame), was also a state champion. But Mike survived a car crash that killed his father, a fact that Mom has never forgiven. Which means that Cal hasn’t seen Mike in years.
But he’s heard so much about his father and brother that Cal decides to try to seek his brother out and, perhaps, reunite him with their mother. Mike, however, wants nothing to do with Cal – initially.
Eventually however, Cal wins Big Bro over, convincing him to train him. Even though Mike is an unemployed day laborer, he somehow has outfitted an abandoned warehouse with wrestling mats, climbing ropes, free weights and more. There, in his secret wrestling lair, he teaches Cal all the tricks of the mat, even while upping his stamina, strength and confidence. He even teaches him the super-secret reverse cradle, a surefire pin hold that nobody uses because it could get them pinned instead.
What drama there is has less to do with Cal’s burgeoning wrestling career than with the trumped-up friction between Mom and Mike. There’s also a mysterious cheerleader for Cal – a wise old man played by Danny Glover, who keeps popping up at opportune moments to give Cal a pep talk when he most needs it.
Graye is not a bad young actor, though director Mel Damski lets him get away with a lot of eye-popping. There’s also an unfortunate subplot involving Cal with Luli (Madeleine Martin of “Californication”), the girl next door who has a crush on Cal.
Clarkson grounds this film in reality, finding the honest emotional notes of her scenes, no matter how operatically they are written. Cena, who isn’t much of an actor, is fine playing the strong quiet type.
On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine who thought he could pass for someone young enough to have a mother as youthful as Clarkson. When the two of them eventually do get together and hug in reunion, they look like they should be playing romantic partners, not mother and son, even if she was a child bride.
“Legendary” isn’t awful; it’s just not particularly memorable. At best, it will wrestle your attention span to a draw.