WWE Films, 2010
Legendary is a 2010 film about champion amateur wrestler John Cena coaching his estranged younger brother to success in freestyle grappling, marking WWE Studios’s first foray into the fantasy genre.
Cena, who plays Mike Chetley, co-stars with Patricia Clarkson, who plays his mother in this film (and Tammy 1 on Parks & Recreation).
Rounding out the DVD cover is Danny Glover, who plays the role of a veteran actor hastily written into a movie script so that the studio can put him on the DVD cover.
But the real main character is Cal Chetley, Cena’s younger brother. Cal is your typical nerd, shunning sports in favor of freshwater biology.
If the fact that he wears glasses weren’t a big enough hint of his unpopularity in school, he gets pushed into a lake by the jock bully Billy…
…because catfish are for losers.
Cal reads about his dad’s and brother’s exploits in high school wrestling, as well as the car accident that took dad’s life.
Brother Mike was a passenger in the car, but received only minor bruises and cuts, as repeatedly stated in this article from a newspaper in dire need of an editor.
Cal decides to join the wrestling team, against the wishes of his mom, who, like so many wrestlers’ widows, blames the sport for her husband’s death. We’re still talking about amateur wrestling here.
Cal’s coach is played by John Posey, who also wrote the film’s script, but who is perhaps best known for playing Danny Tanner on the original, unaired pilot episode of Full House.
(He’s not very well-known, it turns out).
Joining the wrestling team puts Cal in constant contact with his bully, who fortunately is in a higher weight class, eliminating any chance of the two boys directly competing in the film.
Cal’s teen love interest, Luli, is played by Madeleine Martin, who I thought did a decent enough job playing perennial sad-sack Becca Moody on Californication. Imagine my surprise, then, to read that her performance in this film had been panned by not one, but many critics.
Was I to believe that more than one film critic actually sat down and watched this thing?
We first see Luli from behind, showing her “melons” to a group of pre-teen boys…
…for what turns out to be less than a buck a head.
But she doesn’t really expose herself until she opens her mouth and puts forth one of the worst accent attempts in recent film history. I may know only six people from Oklahoma (Jim Ross, Steve Williams, Jack Swagger, and the three Hanson boys)…
…but not one of them sounds anything like a Southern belle. Not even Taylor.
Compare this to John Cena, who barely makes any attempt to change his accent.
Originally, Cal doesn’t get to wrestle at meets, but after an opponent injures a Riverdale wrestler with a version of the Attitude Adjustment…
…Cal is forced onto the active roster.
In his first match, Cal is promptly pinned, letting down his Riverdale teammates and feeling like a real jughead.
A few times along the way, an old fisherman named Red gives Cal some grammatically-correct words of encouragement. But that’s not very important.
After finding out that his estranged brother Mike has been arrested for a barroom fight, Cal makes a secret trek out of town to put in a good word for him at his hearing.
Cena falls neatly into the pattern in WWE Studios films: the Superstar’s character in the movie is, we are told, struggling to move on from a troubled and criminal past, but throughout the course of the entire movie he never does one thing wrong and only ever uses violence as a clear form of self-defense.
In both of Triple H’s movies, his ex-con character never once fires a gun…
…while alcoholic troublemaker Mike Chetley won’t even take a sip of the beer he orders at a bar later in the film.
And as for this arrest? Cena wound up in jail after a very large man picked a fight with him for being overly courteous at the pool table.
Luli tries to cover for Cal’s whereabouts, to which his mom replies, “You’re not a very good liar.” Or actress.
Cal starts secretly training with older brother Cena and takes every opportunity to get in shape, at one point running Luli’s books up and down the stairs for a workout. “Nice hiney,” says Luli, kicking off a discussion about hineys.
“Speaking of hineys” (an actual line from the film), Cena advises Cal to intimidate his opponents by weighing in naked.
In Cal’s first match under Cena’s secret tutelage, he gives his opponent the Heidenreich treatment and wins by decision.
Thanks to an intense training regimen with Cena, set in montage form to a song by a band that is not U2, the victories start to rack up.
Speaking of which, Luli goes to a school dance with Cal and gets some womanly advice from Cal’s mom about not showing everyone her knockers.
Not everyone agrees apparently, as Billy the bully tries to unzip her dress, hoping for a stroll down “Boob Boulevard”. At least he offered more than five times the going rate.
As the state championships draw near, Cena teaches Cal the reverse cradle, from which there is no escape.
Cena kicks out, of course.
Cena hits another snag, however, when he is arrested for another bar fight, started by the same courtesy-hating tough guy from before, that is clearly not Cena’s fault in any way.
Nevertheless, he is arrested and locked up.
After intercepting Cena’s call to younger brother Cal, Mom finds out about their secret training sessions and finally tells Cal why she and Mike don’t speak anymore:
Ten years ago, Mike got Dad to take him to a wrestling meet to scout his next opponent. On the way, they got into a car accident. Fortunately, Mike crashed through the windshield and was flung out of the car, but his dad wasn’t, so he died.
Makes sense to me. What doesn’t make sense, though, is why cars have seat belts but not ejector seats.
Apparently Mike blamed himself for his father’s death, and so did his mom, though she never said it out loud. Powerful.
The questionable automotive safety message does sort of undermine the emotional impact of the scene, though.
Clarkson calls in a favor with the DA’s office and gets Mike released in time for day 2 of the state championships, where Mike can finally support his little brother publicly.
Cal wins his semifinal match by default when he attempts a guillotine pin and tears his opponent’s shoulder muscles. Yay! We always believed in you, Cal!
Before the finals, Cena tells Cal that “Red” (Danny Glover’s character) is actually Harry Newman.
THE Harry Newman.
What, you don’t remember who Harry Newman is? The guy whose name was never spoken prior to this scene and who was quoted in a newspaper clipping early in the movie?
For the much-anticipated final match of the 135-pound weight class, Cal gets a WWE-style entrance with not only confetti but half a dozen pyro rigs inside the high school gym.
So spectacular is Cal’s entrance that even his mortal enemy playfully swats at the pretty colors.
Cal’s undefeated opponent, who beat him in Cal’s first match ever, dominates the protagonist until Cal locks in the reverse cradle.
He fails to pin his opponent’s shoulders to the mat before time runs out, though, meaning he loses on points.
Still, 2nd place in the state is pretty good.
In the end, he bumps fists with his old bully and kisses Luli, who has been a real good sport about the whole dress-unzipping incident.
Danny Glover does a voice-over to wrap up the film, explaining that he was keeping his heretofore unmentioned promise to the boys’ deceased father to watch over them, or at least to spare a few minutes of his time here and there.
“Not all legends are about victory,” he says. Ultimately, the movie’s not about winning, it’s about respect.
Respect from yourself, from your family, from the perverted douchebag at school…
Uh, never mind.
Better make it about winning.
Art is on Twitter. Follow him @Art0Donnell.