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Rumble: Gaining a New Perspective on Kaiju Pro Wrestling

Image courtesy of ViacomCBS

Let’s start with the obvious: Rumble was not made for me. Many great animated movies are made with the entire audience in mind – Soul and Encanto are designed to appeal to adults nearly as much as children. Not so Rumble which, aside from a few winking jokes, is designed to delight kids. It’s only in fatherhood I’ve realized that it’s ok for a movie to be aimed at kids specifically; it does not necessarily mean such films are poor entertainment.

I thought Rumble was fine. A world where kaiju occupy a place somewhere between pro wrestling stars and regional soccer teams is a lovely concept. Towns appear to shut down in support of their regional monster while buildings theme according to their local creature’s power. It’s the sort of visual theming most scene in video games, but it makes for effective world building here. The story is focused on a young girl (Geraldine Viswanathan, Hala, Bad Education) tasked with training a new town monster (Will Arnett, Fox and Netflix’s Arrested Development, The LEGO Batman Movie) after the heel turn and departure of the town’s prior champion (Terry Crews, The Expendables series, Sorry to Bother You). The voice acting is strong throughout, especially Terry Crews. Crews, a delightful comedic presence for years on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, is just about the most perfect casting I could imagine for a pro wrestling heel. His deep, booming, slightly absurd voice is easy to imagine sneering in a real ring. As someone who grew up on pro wrestling I appreciated the film’s inclusion of a bunch in-jokes about the industry as well including cameos by current WWE stars Roman Reigns (Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw) and Becky Lynch (The Marine 6: Close Quarters).

Image courtesy of ViacomCBS

But let’s get to the critic who really matters here: Logan, my nearly 4 year old son, found this movie a transcendent experience. Perhaps informed by the various kaiju movies to which I’ve exposed him or his own growing affection for pro wrestling (Roman Reigns and John Cena action figures are oft thrown around a toy steel cage in our home), Rumble hit a sweet spot. He sat in rapt attention – sad when things were down for our heroes and absolutely hyped when victory approached. I’ll share his reaction to the film’s climax:

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It leaves me in a strange place discussing this film. Would I recommend it to an adult filmgoer? I would not. It’s predictable and formulaic; it drags at places. The animation lacks the sense of loving artistry found in a film like Encanto. Do I think your child that enjoys giant monsters or pro wrestling would enjoy it? I absolutely do. So where does this leave me? As I start to see films not just through my own eyes, but through the eyes of my children, I cannot help but feel fondly about Rumble.

Image courtesy of ViacomCBS

Rumble is available now on Paramount+.