Well, it’s the Knucklehead Review

December 14th, 2010 by | Tags: , ,

Every year, my best friend Sean and I have a habit of giving each other horrible Christmas gifts. From memory, he’s gotten me a “three wolf moon” t-shirt, Suburban Commando, Jingle All the Way and the Country Bear Jamboree. With the movies, it means that I have to watch them and he has to be there to endure it next to me to make sure. Well, the joke’s on him that one time because I genuinely enjoyed Suburban Commando!

Sean gave me an early Christmas gift recently and the other night we had the privilege of watching WWE Films’ Knucklehead, starring the Big Show.

Do you want your movie poster with or without toppings?

WWE Films have released a lot of wrestler-starred movies over the years, usually in the form of cheesy action movies with the likes of Steve Austin, John Cena and for some reason Ted Dibiase Jr. They also did a horror movie with Kane and a serious family drama with Cena. When I heard about Knucklehead, I was initially interested. Big Show has always made me laugh and the idea of putting him in a comedy as a big doofus only seemed natural. I was totally onboard. Then I saw the trailer.

Wow. Okay, um, so you know that saying about how a movie trailer is the studio trying to dress up the movie to make it look like how they wish it was? That’s what we have here. As far as I can tell, this is as entertaining as you can possibly make the movie look with the hour and a half of footage at your disposal. Yes, the best selling point they had in their repertoire was, “Big Show takes a monster shit on a bus.” Personally, I might have played up that the climax of the movie is Big Show vs. Terry Tate, Office Linebacker, but I don’t know if that million dollar idea carries over to other potential viewers.

I’m going to go full spoilers on this baby, so consider yourself warned. Not that it matters, since if you’re reading this, you’ve either seen it already and want an echo chamber on how bad it is or you’re morbidly curious on how terrible it can possibly be.

We begin in an orphanage, where they’re doing a production of Wizard of Oz. We meet Henry (Kurt Doss), a portly orphan dressed as Toto who is established as being overly into portable videogames and being known as a bad actor. This is excellent casting, as Doss really is the worst actor in the movie. A lot of the other actors simply push through what the script gives them so you can’t blame them for their failings, but this kid has nothing going on. Anyway, Sister Francesca (Wendie Malick, the ex-wife from Dream On) reluctantly tells the audience that due to stage fright, the part of Glenda the Good Witch will be played by the understudy Walter Krunk (Big Show). He’s then lowered onto the set by a rope and the people holding him up lose control and the entire set goes crashing down. Naturally, Walter is blamed for being a gigantic klutz.

I remember this one time when it was raining hard outside and I put a gallon of milk in a flimsy paper bag and held it from the top and walked to my car. The milk tore through the bag and busted open onto the ground. I can’t believe that milk was so clumsy!

Walter is an orphan who still lives in the orphanage despite being 35. The other important character in the orphanage is Mary O’Conner (Melora Hardin), who helps out the kids but has no interest in being a nun. This is for the sake of giving her a romantic subplot and not having it be awkward and a complete rehash of Nacho Libre. Actually, yeah, a lot of this movie is just a disfigured clone based on Nacho Libre‘s DNA. I just discovered that Hardin is in her 40’s. She’s pretty smoking for her age in this movie.

Walter and Henry are supposed to be best friends, but only get one scene of real interaction to establish this. During this scene, Walter makes dinner while farting and decides to head to the bathroom, while asking Henry to watch the stove for him. Henry’s too busy playing his video games to pay attention and the place catches fire while Walter’s off in another scene where the joke is that nuns have really loud farts. The kitchen burns down and Walter is blamed. The damages will take $25,000 to fix and the health department is going to close down the orphanage. Henry appeases the health inspector guy by begging for a week to raise the money. The guy accepts it, but points out that the kid’s a horrible actor. You’d think that this would all lead to some kind of scene later in the movie where he’d pull off a little performance that would save the day or something, but no. That’s the last they ever talk about it. It’s the last they ever really use Henry at all, really.

Henry does have a few scenes remaining in the movie, but he’s nothing more than a prop from there on out. I don’t know if the writer just tacked on his character last minute or if they decided he was too annoying and cut out as many of his scenes as possible. Either way, he’s supposed to be important in the big picture and doesn’t even get on the cover.

Sister Francesca is distraught about how they’re going to be shut down because now all the kids will be put back into the system! Now, I can accept that that could be a bad thing and all, but by this point, the movie’s done nothing to suggest there’s anything wrong with that. All the non-Walter orphans are assholes and all Francesca does is yell at people. Still, for the sake of Walter losing his home, we need to get behind the idea of him raising $25,000 in a week.

Meanwhile, we meet Eddie Sullivan (Mark Feuerstein, star of Royal Pains), a former MMA fighter who now trains younger fighters at a gym along with his father Vic (Will Patton). Eddie’s involved with some unsavory people in the fighting world in the form of Memphis Earl (Dennis Farina, known as the replacement guy on Law & Order) and his prime fighter Redrum (Lester Speight, AKA Terry Tate). There’s a big MMA tournament coming up in a week in New Orleans and Eddie has his top student ready. Redrum proceeds to put that guy out of commission in just a second and we find that Eddie owes Memphis Earl a lot of money. If he doesn’t pay up soon, he’ll probably be dead. Vic suggests to son the idea of praying.

Eddie goes to church and prays to God to give him a solid just as Walter accidentally falls through a stain glass window. As you can probably guess, a lot of the non-fart jokes for Big Show are that he runs into things a lot. Eddie talks Sister Francesca and Mary into bringing Walter with him on the road for the tournament. If he wins, Eddie gets half of the $50,000 prize. It’s agreed, but Mary has to go with them, since Sister Francesca doesn’t trust Eddie.

Our trio travel the country on their way to New Orleans from… shit, I don’t know where the orphanage is and I’m not up for checking. Eddie explains that he’s going to be filming Walter’s fights and putting them on YouTube so he’ll get a big following through viral marketing. This is a really good plot device because the scheduled fights Walter has to prepare for makes it necessary to do the lengthy road trip angle. Especially since other characters travel to New Orleans many times faster with zero trouble.

Walter’s first fight takes place in an underground synagogue fight club where he’s beaten senseless by his overly-Jewish opponent. The opponent tires himself out, gives Walter a wedgie and then Walter collapses onto him, netting him the win. The second competition is in the backyard of Mad Milton (Bobb’e J. Thompson, known as Marcus from the PSP commercials). It’s crazy how much the marketing wants us to believe Milton is a major part of the movie by putting him in the trailer and on the cover when in actuality, he doesn’t even get a minute’s worth of combined screentime. Sure, he’s a storm of charisma when he’s there, but it’s a glorified cameo.

This scene also shows the major problematic trend of the movie. They set up to this really great bit and it falls flat. Something that should have been a funny gag. Mad Milton throws fighting events in his backyard with real deal fighters and an audience of children. Eddie sees some of this and then goes back inside to coax Walter into fighting. As this goes on, Milton’s father comes home, sees what’s going on in his yard and goes on a rant while tearing the ring apart and tossing chairs. As he tells everyone to get the hell off his property, Eddie explains to Walter that his opponent in the ring is a horrible, horrible man who needs to be beaten up. The buildup is golden, but once he runs out screaming to go beat up Milton’s father, it’s over. No funny beatdown. He just runs into the dad and they go through a fence. It’s bad timing.

Speaking of jokes that don’t work, there’s that gag where Walter lays down on the bed, Eddie falls onto him and Mary walks in on them. That’s it. I guess they’re so focused on keeping things PG that they don’t want to elaborate that the joke is, “haha, they’re gay!” Mary knows it isn’t what it looks like and they move on. Walter and Mary leave so they can have a serious conversation about how this is Walter’s first time in the real world and how maybe he can do things right for once, which is when Memphis Earl and Redrum enter the hotel room and beat up Eddie as a warning. They also beat up his father at one point, but Vic tells his son over the phone not to pussy out and to avenge him by winning the tournament.

Our heroes crash their bus and have to find other forms of home and transportation. Luckily, Mary knows a person who lives nearby and we meet Tina (Rebecca Creskoff). It’s heavily implied yet never explicitly said that Mary and Tina know each other from their time as being strippers, with the indication that Tina never stopped. She talks about there being a county fair the next day and mentions a $500 prize for winning a fight against “Bare-Knuckle Dave”. The joke is that it’s really “Bear-Knuckle Dave”, as Walter ends up having to fight a bear. You can see it in the trailer, but the fight looks completely awful. The shots where it’s a guy in a bear costume are ridiculously obvious and incredibly fake. The bear goes after Eddie and Walter saves him by giving the bear a rear naked choke. That move – one of the more boring holds in wrestling – is the first thing Eddie taught Walter and is portrayed as a major deal in this movie.

The strongest thing the movie has going for it is the romance subplot between Eddie and Mary. Sure, it’s cliché as all hell, but the two characters are likeable, have chemistry and go through an arc of change. Compare this to Walter and Tina, who simply end up together because it seems practical for Walter to get some. The trio have a farewell lunch with Tina, where Walter goes overboard on the all-you-can-eat buffet. Eddie warns him about it, but Walter insists on having a cast-iron stomach.

Cue the big bus sequence. The real laugh here isn’t Walter taking a gigantic shit in a tiny room, filling up the bus with his poo gas. The real laugh is the featurette on the DVD about Big Show where the director goes into a moment of seriousness in how this scene is Big Show dramatically baring his soul to the world. The tears in his eyes as he apologizes for stinking up the bus come straight from his heart, damn it!

Speaking of the featurettes, one of them had a bit about the director trying to take down Big Show in the ring with Big Show simply standing there. One of the actors described the scene as looking like a lion playing with a rabbit. I laughed pretty hard at this because those are the words Bobby “The Brain” Heenan once used to describe what it was like seeing Andre the Giant have sex.

Things start to look up for our heroes. The footage of his fights – especially with the bear – has become a a YouTube phenomenon. He’s become an online sensation and is recognized by frat boys. He begins to win more and more fights as they near New Orleans and the gang gains more and more money. Memphis Earl buys into the hype and concocts a plan to keep Redrum from losing the tournament.

Sitting around a campfire, Walter and Mary ask Eddie about why he stopped fighting. This is the one scene that I found funny. Eddie is reluctant to talk about it, but says that he had to stop due to a hard blow giving him irreparable bodily damage. Enough prodding gets him to admit that it’s a testicular thing, which causes Walter and Mary to break out laughing hard. Mary ruins the humor by saying that they were only being “nutty”, but Walter saves it by telling Eddie that they didn’t mean to “bust his balls”.

They gain enough money that at one point, Eddie books them a couple rooms in a swanky hotel. He and Walter get a couple of nice suits, Mary gets a hot red dress and they hit a club. Mary gets drunk, gets in an underwear bar fight with a waitress named Jiggles over Eddie, takes her out with a roundhouse kick that Eddie taught her and passes out. Shortly after, she opens up to Eddie about how she used to be an exotic dancer (again without outright saying it for some reason) and that Sister Francesca found her and saved her. She feels like being a stripper makes her a horrible person, which is kind of fucked up since she’s in essence looking down on her good friend Tina. Eddie assures her that perhaps if you do enough good to offset the bad in your life, you’re all right in the end. Foreshadowing!

Speaking of Tina, she shows up in New Orleans and greets her giant boyfriend with a pair of shorts she made with a dead bear drawn on the side.

Now for the tournament in New Orleans. At first, they’re not allowed to enter because Eddie never pre-registered Walter, but Mary gets the crowd behind them by bringing up the popularity of the bear clip. Meanwhile, right as the tournament is starting up, Sister Francesca gets word from another nun that Henry is missing. Francesca at first figures that the kid is simply hiding. Somewhere between that point and right before the tournament finals, she’s able to verify that Henry is indeed missing and get to New Orleans. What is time and space to one who works for the Lord?

The tournament is made up of nothing but one-sided matches. Walter crushes everyone in his path. Redrum crushes everyone in his path. The winners who aren’t Walter or Redrum also crush everyone in their path. All but the two fat guys who go at it for a few seconds for the sake of having two guys roll around with their plumber cracks hanging out. Redrum terrorizes his opponents while Walter wins, but checks up on them and makes sure they’re okay. They get ready for the finals to begin.

Then we get a major instance of the movie shooting itself in the foot. Eddie’s father Vic is there and Eddie secretly hands him the remaining $4,000 that Walter’s earned from his fights with the orders that if anything’s to happen to him, Vic has to give the money to the orphanage. As this is happening, Mary comes out of a stall in the bathroom to find Memphis Earl standing there, waiting for her. He tells her the true reason why Eddie stopped fighting. He took a dive in a fight, bet against himself and got caught. Eddie can’t be trusted and has probably bet all their money against Walter. Mary goes off to find Eddie and confronts him about the money. Naturally, Eddie can’t show her the money since he no longer has it on him.

For a second, let’s get past the fact that Memphis Earl correctly guessed that Eddie wouldn’t have the money on him somehow. The situation creates a good conflict that paints Eddie back into being the conman we knew him as in the beginning of the story. Talking his way out of it or bringing in trust or any kind of resolution to this would be a great way to move the story forward and show that the guy has truly grown over the week of travel.

INSTEAD! Sister Francesca and her nuns appear to show that Henry has been kidnapped via a note that Walter has to take a dive, accompanied by a photo of Memphis Earl holding Henry over a pier. Mary recognizes him from a minute earlier, now knows he’s full of shit and takes away all the tension from Eddie’s situation. Well, great. It’s decided that they’ll go on with the show while Eddie and the nuns look for Memphis Earl and Henry. And they’re even right in that Memphis Earl would have the kid with him at this show instead of tied up in an undisclosed location! God, this guy is bad at this!

Walter vs. Redrum starts off even, but Redrum takes Walter’s feet out from under him and starts taking control. Redrum puts him in the dreaded REAR NAKED CHOKE and Walter is able to power out. Memphis Earl appears in the middle of the crowd with Henry in hand, telling him to take the fall. Redrum tells Walter that if he’s smart, he’ll stay down. Walter gets up, identifies himself as a “knucklehead” and proceeds to tear ass. He puts Redrum in a triangle choke and despite Memphis Earl’s pleas, Redrum taps out. The police bust in, looking for Memphis Earl, he makes a run for it and Sister Francesca puts him down with a taser. This may be the worst villain in movie history.

Vic reappears and tells his son that he didn’t hold up his end of the bargain. He went and gambled the $4,000… on Walter, who had 20:1 odds! Sure, might as well rip off Dodgeball while you’re at it. Not only do they get the cash prize and no longer have to pay Memphis Earl because he’s arrested, but they have an extra $80,000, which Eddie donates to the orphanage. So in review, stripping is BAD. Gambling is GOOD.

Eddie and Mary kiss in the middle of the ring as Walter gives a high-pitched, “WHOO-HOO-HOOO!” He does that in response to just about anything, though. Is he happy? Afraid? Taking a dump? Big Show’s go-to reaction is to yell, “WHOO-HOO-HOOO!” with a high voice.

With the journey over, it would be nice to have some kind of ending that gives us a quick look at what happens to all the protagonists and their friends. Maybe show how the orphanage has greatly improved thanks to Walter’s winnings. That would be nice, but we don’t get much of that. Eddie and Mary kissing in the ring is the end of them. They’re dead to us. A final scene shows that Walter has finally moved out of the orphanage and is getting an apartment with Tina. When he goes to speak with Henry, you can see where it’s going from a mile away, but it’s a happy ending, so you welcome it. Obviously, Walter is going to adopt Henry. In what should be a good ending scene, they do it so abruptly that you wonder if they were in a rush to put everything away and end filming.

I can’t do it justice, but here’s me paraphrasing it.

Walter: What’s going on?
Henry: This sucks. My best friend is leaving.
Walter: Well, you know… I did decide to adopt an orphan.
Henry: Wow, really? I love you, Walter.
Walter I love you too, Henry.
*freeze frame*

They don’t even try to make that look convincing. Hell, you can believe that Eddie and Mary ended up together and even Walter and Tina to an extent because their characters connected on some level. Walter and Henry come off as two guys who barely know each other reading cue cards. Perfect way to end such a craptacular movie.

The script of the movie has a way of being completely paint-by-numbers, yet unable to even do that competently. If you’re looking for a laugh, look elsewhere. Even if you’re looking for a laugh from a movie with Big Show in it! I mean, MacGruber is way better than Knucklehead! Check it out.

See, their “Big Show is gay” joke actually has dedication.

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4 comments to “Well, it’s the Knucklehead Review”

  1. part of me thinks this is a script adam sandler said no to sometime in 1996.

  2. Except, with 1996 predating YouTube and mainstream MMA, the original script would have starred Sandler as an up-and-coming Pogs player recognized from a hilarious mishap that ended up on America’s Funniest Home Videos. And the soundtrack would have been by the Goo Goo Dolls, so the soundtrack would have blown. But all the parts about taking a big shit and then running into things would have survived intact, and since that sounds like the bulk of the movie, I am ready to support this thesis wholeheartedly.

    Anyway, I was totally looking forward to this post, because I couldn’t stop laughing at your tiny Twitter review that the movie is “worse than you would expect”. Its opening weekend in theatres back in October grossed a total of SEVENTY-FIVE DOLLARS; my expectations were based off of that dollar figure, and the film is worse than my expectations. There’s really almost a certain magic to that level of awful.

  3. Wait, MacGruber is funny? I was wondering about that. Gonna have to watch it now.

  4. Well, at least you didn’t suffer through Ninja’s Creed, featuring Gail Kim as an assassin. In a sentence: she wasn’t the only actor in the movie whose voice was badly looped by another actor in post.