Movie Review: WWE gets animated and monstrous with “Rumble”

The wrestling empire that is WWE dives even deeper into movies with “Rumble,” an animated film that they made through Paramount Animation, and had slated for theatrical release earlier this year.

Rumble,” based on a graphic novel about a world where towering, monstrous kaiju wrestlers fight for “the Big Belt,” makes its way to audiences via Paramount+ instead.

It’s a good-looking, mindless romp aimed at the children of all ages who watch professional wrestling. Formulaic and silly, it might not be reason one to subscribe to the Kevin Costner network. But there are a couple of laughs and lots of utterly ridiculous “action” in the octagon where the Big Boys play.

“Are you ready to go out there and look RIDICULOUS tonight?” our coach asks our hero at one point.Yes. Yes he is. Why? Because “We do not CARE!”

That’s the stance Rayburn Jr. (Will Arnett voices him) has to take when the career-loser, son of a wrestling legend, is recruited by the daughter of his late father’s coach, Winnie (Geraldine Viswanathan), to get serious about the sport by learning to “dance” in the ring.

Winnie the coach’s big idea is to toss in paso dobles, pirouettes and the odd pas de deux with all the piledrivers and suplexes that wrestlers live by, even the 40 foot tall versions.

Wrestling-crazed Stoker-on-Avon has never been the same since the famed Coach Jimbo and his star kaiju Rayburn disappeared years before. A new local champ emerges, but Tentacular (Terry Crews) wins the title and promptly announces he’s “taking my talents to Slitherpool,” to wrestle “for someplace that matters.”

Stoker will lose its stadium unless Winnie can find somebody and train him to be the champ who saves their rep and the stadium that bears her dad’s name. That “somebody” turns out to be her dad’s most famous wrestler’s son.

Rayburn and Winnie have to bond and come up with tactics that will transform a career loser into a phenom and do it all before their beloved stadium becomes a parking lot.

Whatever the Rob Harrell graphic novel has going for it, this script envisions an entire world that revolves around wrestling, with fanatical fans taking on all the rituals and body paint tributes of hockey and football fans.

The cleverest touch? Having the matches called by the insufferable Mark Remy, voiced by the insufferable Stephen A. Smith of ESPN. Dancing in the ring?

“This is HARDLY wrestling. Y’all know that, right?” The character complains and complains, until our hero starts winning. Then he changes his tune, just like Stephen A.

“I’m not sayin’ I’m wrong.‘ Because I’m never wrong. But…”

Jimmy Tatro voices the monster who is color commentator for the matches. And who introduces the combatants in the ring? Michael “Let’s get rrrrready to RRRRRumble” Buffer, of course.

Arnett and Crews, two very funny guys, don’t pay off as funny characters because the script doesn’t have many jokes that land. Tentacular has just won the Big Belt. What’ll he do?

“I’m going to an unnamed theme bar!”

Kids may get into the “action,” but for me there was one sight gag and one sight gag only that pays off. One of the beasts eyes the Prop that Made Wrestling What It Is Today — a folding chair. Great! It’ll turn the tide of the match. Unless of course he’s miscalculated the impact of something that small on wrestlers this large.

Aside from that, and the “get knocked-down, get back up again” messaging, there’s nothing to “Rumble.” Hard to see it as ever being a theatrical release contender.

Rating: PG, slapstick, innuendo

Cast: The voices of Will Arnett, Geraldine Viswanathan, Terry Cruz, Jimmy Tatro, Ben Schwartz, Tony Danza, Fred Melamud and Stephen A. Smith.

Credits: Directed by Hamish Grieve, scripted by Hamish Grieve, Matt Lieberman and Alexandra Bracken, based on a graphic novel by Rob Harrell. A Paramount+ release.

Running time: 1:34

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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