"Oklahoma—they call it the 'Sooner State,'" narrates Danny Glover, playing a fisherman/Magical Negro, at the beginning of the latest project from WWE Films, immediately setting the tone for this slow drip of high-fructose corn syrup (with New Orleans doubling as Sallisaw, Oklahoma). Cal Chetley (Devon Graye), a 135-pound, four-eyed high schooler who excels in science and conversing with catfish, wants to join the wrestling team to forge a bond with his dead dad and estranged drunk older brother, Mike (WWE headliner John Cena), both onetime mat champions, to the horror of his mother, Sharon (Patricia Clarkson). Big bro puts down the bottle and the scrawny boy becomes a man, their training montages scored to the awful generic metal-lite of WWE Music. Though the redemption/coming-of-age narrative is highly predictable—with Glover appearing intermittently only to dispense bromides—Clarkson, at least, remains reliable. Her performance as a pink-collar single mom, bruised by loss but still vibrant, is powerful enough to make even stony Cena look good in the scenes they share. And how many other actresses could yell "Cal, squeeze it! Squeeze it!" from the bleachers and not sound ridiculous?
Any movie that contains Patricia Clarkson can't be all bad, right?
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., Sept. 10. Rated PG-13. 107 minutes.