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The Movie Guru

Jan 09, 2024 10:40AM ● By Jenniffer Wardell

The Iron Claw (in theaters) 

Don’t watch “The Iron Claw” thinking you’re about to experience a fun movie about the history of wrestling. 

Though wrestling is an inherent part of the story, “The Iron Claw” is actually one of those heartbreaking tragedies about a performing family chewed up and eventually destroyed by the ambition of one of the parents. Zac Efron will destroy you emotionally, despite his haircut, and Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, and Stanley Simons are all devastating in their own way. If you have any kind of fond feelings for your siblings, and possibly even if you have complicated feelings about your siblings, you will spend the end of the movie in tears. 

Inspired by a true story, “The Iron Claw” follows Kevin Von Erich, a 1980s wrestler working a state circuit with his family. All he wants is to hang out with his brothers forever, but their father’s obsessive quest for the wrestling glory he was denied makes him push his sons into more and more stressful situations. When they can’t take it anymore, for one reason or another, he simply moves on to the next brother. 

It’s not a perfect movie. Trimming a half hour or more from the length would make it even more devastating, and unless you’re a huge fan of buff men wearing only tighty-whities you will experience profound burnout by the end of the film. Efron’s haircut and hopefully fake tan will also be distracting until you get used to them. 

Despite all that, “The Iron Claw” is an unexpectedly powerful tragedy.

Grade: Three and a half stars

The Family Plan (Apple TV+)

“The Family Plan” is the kind of movie that really shows the divide between critics and audiences. 

It thrives on its own predictability. An action comedy where Mark Wahlberg plays a former assassin-turned-family man, the plot is predictable enough that you can map out the character’s actions well before they do them. Even when they pull a fake-out on you, it’s easy to tell what the characters are going to do instead. The sight gags are time-honored, and will be done exactly as many times as the movie can eke out an opportunity. 

Critics loathe this kind of movie. They have to watch enough films throughout the years that they’re driven to anything new and different, even if that means it’s less entertaining than a movie that’s less unique. Predictable movies, particularly action comedies, will always get low ratings no matter what other factors are involved. 

The truth is, though, that these kind of movies are mindlessly pleasant to watch. “The Family Plan” isn’t the best example of the genre, with the jokes not always landing and the emotional moments a little more canned than I like, but there’s some solid entertainment value here that’s safe for the whole family. If you like Mark Wahlberg, you’ll enjoy yourself. If you like the idea of a dad using increasingly ridiculous means to hide shootouts from his kids, you’ll still kind of enjoy yourself. 

No matter what we critics tell you. 

Grade: Two stars

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