“Rumble” stars Will Arnett, Geraldine Viswanathan, Terry Crews, Fred Melamed, Charles Barkley, Chris Eubank, and Bridget Everett. Released on Paramount+ on December 15, 2021, the film has a young woman managing an amateur monster wrestler.
The film featured the directorial debut of Hamish Grieve, who served as a story artist in the animation department for movies like “Shrek 2”, “Monsters vs. Aliens”, and “Rise of the Guardians”. It is loosely based on the graphic novel Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell. It’s no mystery that kaiju fights and wrestling go hand in hand. They’re both exciting pieces of entertainment, and they provide massive destruction in the process. What’s not to love? So I was shocked to see that it took them this long to make a movie based on this combination. The film marks the latest feature from Paramount Animation, an animation division that’s struggling to find success outside of the SpongeBob movies. Even its two original films, “Monster Trucks” and “Wonder Park”, failed to make an impression both critically and financially. This year, we see Paramount Animation placing its bets on a film adaptation of Rob Harrell’s graphic novel that combines kaiju monsters with WWE wrestling. It was originally set for a theatrical release before Paramount decided to move it to Paramount+, which is probably for the best considering the failures of its previous theatrical outings. Plus, they don’t have to worry too much about losing any more money, although they have to be concerned about gaining them. Aside from that, was the film able to provide a monstrous knockout for its target audience? Let’s find out.
The film is set in a world where humans coexist with giant monsters. The monsters are seen as superstar athletes who compete in a global professional sport called Monster Wrestling. The story’s main focus is on Winnie Coyle (Viswanathan), an 18-year-old woman who seeks to follow in her father’s footsteps as a Monster Wrestling manager. Her first step in achieving her goal led her to coach Steve (Arnett), a giant red reptilian monster and an inexperienced amateur wrestler. Unfortunately, these two don’t see eye to eye as Steve would rather be lazy than do anything active like wrestling. Winnie will have to use her managing skills to transform Steve into a professional wrestler to compete against reigning champion Tentacular (Crews) for the top prize. Think of this film as a combination of “Godzilla” and “Rocky Balboa”, two classic films that feature hard-hitting action and crowd-pleasing moments, with a dose of kid-friendly humor to boot. I enjoy both of these movies for those reasons, so it was no surprise that I was willing to watch this one. Unfortunately, it took me at least a week to get into it for a specific reason. I was planning on watching it with my mother on Paramount+, but due to the circumstances beyond my control and the app not working on my smart TV, I had to watch “Rumble” alone on my computer. So, mom, if you’re reading this, this review’s for you, and I hope we get a chance to watch it together soon. As I mentioned earlier, Paramount Animation has an unfortunate streak of providing intriguing ideas that sadly didn’t connect with viewers regarding their execution and direction. To me, it’s like cooking. You have a recipe for something that would’ve been heavenly delicious, but the misinterpretation of the ingredients can lead to a dish that tastes like a kaiju’s butt. In other words, I understand what they’re going for, but despite the entertainment value presented in the films, their storytelling is tough to swallow. Unsurprisingly, “Rumble” marks the latest film from the animation studio to fit into that category. It’s a by-the-numbers and subpar underdog story that struggled to make it past the second round. While a couple of bright spots prevented it from getting knocked out, “Rumble” didn’t provide anything beyond its cliched plot to attract a wider audience. I think kids and specific fans of WWE wrestling may find it to be a passable diversion, but anyone else outside of that target audience? Probably not. The film had plenty of opportunities that would’ve made it special, such as Winnie being a female coach and the consequence of greed over respect. Plus, there’s a heartfelt message about focusing on what you could be rather than letting other people think you should be, which should resonate with a younger audience. However, the film played itself too safe by following every move in the wrestling film playbook and rushing through certain plot elements. So if you’re looking for a champion that rivals Disney or even DreamWorks Animation regarding storytelling quality, which is funny since director Hamish Grieve is a veteran for the latter, “Rumble” isn’t the one. Although, I wouldn’t count it out yet as it had a couple of things that I happened to like. One of them is the voice cast, who did a pretty decent job with their performances despite their characters being mostly forgettable. Will Arnett is about as “Will Arnett-y” as you can imagine as he delivered some charming voice work as Steve. It’s not his best work in his career regarding animation roles, but he made a tolerable effort to make Steve enjoyable regardless. “Blockers” star Geraldine Viswanathan was also solid as the voice of Winnie. Was it bad that this film and “Blockers” were the only ones that made me recognize Viswanathan’s talents? As for Terry Crews as Tentacular, all I can say was that he played the role effectively, but his character was the worst part of the film, in my opinion. The film attempted to make Tentacular a selfish and unforgiving antagonist who hates being in someone’s shadow and cares more about being the sport’s champion than the people’s champion. The problem with that is that the charm in his mean-spiritedness was completely nonexistent, resulting in him being a character that I want to perform a pile driver on a thousand times. I get what they’re trying to do, but to be honest, it’s tough to make unsympathetic characters likable, especially villains, and Tentacular is one of the examples of that situation. But, of course, the film also had a couple of guest stars from the wrestling community since it is produced by WWE Studios, such as Becky Lynch and Roman Reigns, just in case you’re a fan of the sport. Another element that I was impressed with was the animation. Even though the story wasn’t top-tier, I have to give the film credit for providing a vibrant and frenetic style that matched the scope of the environment and the wrestling sequences. Plus, the monster designs were nicely detailed and unique. It didn’t come close to matching the animation quality of Reel FX’s previous production, “The Book of Life”, but it was nice to see the animators put some effort into the visuals, especially with a concept like this. The film’s humor was also fine for the most part. Not all of the jokes presented managed to make me guffaw like a monster, but there were a few moments in its comedy that put a smile on my face.
Overall, “Rumble” had a couple of merits in its cast and animation work, but they weren’t enough to help it survive the match. It’s not the worst film that Paramount+ offered this year, but it is another missed opportunity to get Paramount Animation back into the animation game. With its formulaic story, pacing issues, mediocre characters, and a lack of solid depth, the film missed the chance to score the championship belt and had to settle with a bronze trophy instead. If you have Paramount+ and are looking for something to watch with the kids besides “PAW Patrol” and “Clifford”, “Rumble” serves as an okay diversion. It’s not perfect, and it’s not terrible either. It was just an OK kids movie with giant monsters and wrestling—nothing more, and nothing less.