'Legendary' Review: Learning the Ropes
Legendary tells the story of nerdy student Cal, who joins his high school’s wrestling team in order to reunite with his brother. His brother's name is John Cena. Well, actually, his name is Mike. Sharon, the mother of both, doesn’t like this, but it doesn’t matter much, because Cal keeps on training anyway in order to become a wrestler. You can sense a fundamental problem with this premise, and that is that the mother, played by Patricia Clarkson, essentially becomes an inactive antagonist. She does almost nothing to get in the way of the son's objective. If you switched her character to that of a supportive parent, you would have essentially the same movie. Fortunately, Cal has other forces to fight against, such as the local bullies, and of course, the estrangement between himself and his mother and brother.
Legendary isn’t a terrible movie by any means. It’s actually kind of endearing, and even a little bit sweet. It’s as formulaic as a sports movie can be, but it’s offensive. However, movies of this nature can be formulaic and still be engaging, but overall the movie goes way too easy on Cal and Mike. They never seem to face any real challenges, and when they do, they’re quickly resolved. It’s hard to really care about them, because they essentially come off as stock characters instead of real people. Cal may be nerdy, but he’s just the good guy. Mike may have a checkered past, but he’s also a good guy. And Sharon, the mother, may be a bit overprotective, but hey, what do you know, She loves her son, and that’s all that matters.
They face very little in the way of self-doubt or crippling failure. The best inspirational stories are those that put the characters against the impossible, and Cal and Mike never actually seem to be dealing with any real hardship. On top of that, although the movie does have a few funny scenes and moments, it takes itself too seriously. There are scenes that feel too easy to parody, or impossible to take seriously. I kept wishing I could be watching a Mel Brooks or a Jim Abrahams/David Zucker collaboration, because I kept thinking how funny some of the scenes could be.
The performances are decent. If you are hoping for anyone to deliver an Oscar-winning performance, forget it, despite the presence of great actors such as Patricia Clarkson and Danny Glover. However, the acting manages to avoid being a complete disaster. John Cena is adequate as Mike. It's not a great performance by any means, but at leas it's, a convincing one. Overall, Legendary just sort of exists, like that attractive neighbor who always greets you and behaves pleasantly, but who you just can’t get yourself personally interested in. There are movies who’ve done what Legendary is doing a whole lot worse, but there are also far many that have done it a whole lot better as well.