Unlike the majority of films that the WWE releases, “Legendary” is actually not too bad a flick. That’s probably because John Cena isn’t actually too bad an actor. Flanked by experienced thespians Danny Glover, Patricia Clarkson and youngster Devon Graye, this film has its moments.
Before you get too excited though, be warned. Thanks to a mediocre script, it ultimately feels like a solid made for TV movie you’d see on network television 15 years ago [albeit, with excellent production values] that fails to be convincing enough to captivate.
Graye, known to millions as the teenage version of the main character on Showtime’s “Dexter,” is solid throughout as Cal Chetley, even though he isn’t killing any small animals or hallowing in self-pity. A nerdy teenager looking to find his way, with the help of his mother [Clarkson] and estranged big brother [Cena], Chetley gets into amateur wrestling. How Chetley went from a great student with no desire to get in the ring to a headlock-administering rebel with a heart isn’t explained much. The same thing goes for the plight of Cena’s character and former amateur wrestling standout, Mike. Sure, their stories are briefly told, but with the kind of detail that would have an old lady saying, “That’s it,” before getting into a story of her own, of how movies were better when she was young.
Even the relationship between Chet and his best friend/eventual girlfriend Luli [Madeleine Martin] is handled weirdly, to the point where you don’t know what’s going to happen between the two. Some of the dialogue is charming and innocent, but after their first meeting in the film, where Chet catches her flashing a group of boys in the woods, you’ll wonder if Chet loves her or pities her the rest of the way.
Because of that, even with the mushiest montages and good supporting acting from Glover and Clarkson, it’s hard to create an emotional connection that’s needed to drive a film like this.
Nevertheless, this film has that “Karate Kid” coming of age feel to it and will induce smiles at times. Clarkson’s character desperately wants to keep her family together, while both Chetley boys desperately need something to believe in. Their stories are so different, but the way they come together, although feeling rushed, is indicative of both Graye and Cena’s chemistry together. Tough, but warm and humorous, Cena does as much with this character as one person can. It’s quite possible that if any other wrestler in the WWE played this part, big brother Chetley could have turnout as a stereotypical mess.
Unfortunately for Cena and the rest of the cast though, the pacing and overall script in the film is what does it in more than anything else.
Had the time been spent to further develop the Chetley family’s backstory earlier on and polish up the dialogue, “Legendary” could have been an independent release that scored a three-count. As it stands however, it’s a film that has a few good moves up its sleeves, but none strong enough to score a pinfall.