Who is the target audience for Knucklehead? Is it for kids? There are plenty of fart jokes & slapstick antics, but there are also homosexual innuendos, religious mockery, and racial stereotypes. Is it for fans of professional wrestling? The movie features WWE superstar Paul Wight (aka Big Show/The Giant), but the fight scenes are too infantile to whet any wrestling fan’s appetite, the climactic fighting competition consisting of a half-assed wrestling montage accompanied by generic nu metal. But probably the most important question for the sake of this review is: Is this movie for anyone? The answer is definitely not.
The first time we meet the 7 foot, 450lbs hero at the center of Knucklehead, he is descending from the rafters during his orphanage’s rendition of The Wizard of Oz. He is playing the Good Witch, but the gentle giant soon ruins the production by clumsily destroying the set. Why is a full grown man still an orphan? Simply, the film explains no one wants to adopt a giant. It becomes apparent, however, that Walter’s below average intelligence & awful luck are the true reason. In his very next scene he burns down the orphanage’s kitchen by throwing grease on a raging fire. What a knucklehead! Inexplicably, the orphanage has no fire insurance and must raise the money quickly or all the poor orphans will be evicted. But in an act of divine intervention, Walter is pushed through a stained glass window at the exact moment that former MMA fighter turned promoter Eddie Sullivan is asking God to wash away his gambling debts. It’s a miracle! Eddie sees the potential in him and they soon embark on a road trip to New Orleans for the “Beatdown on the Bayou”, a fighting tournament with a $100,000 prize that will solve both their problems. Their journey basically amounts to a series of formulaic gags involving farts, poops, and urine (sometimes simultaneously), that are punctuated by lessons about family, determination, and faith.
It’s obvious the filmmakers were imitating the Farrelly Brothers with this attempt to mix sweet, light-hearted comedy with gross-out humor but, unlike the Farrellys, they don’t give us any characters to care about or any truly gross-out moments. I watched a human giant flatulate, act silly and beat people and I still wasn’t entertained. That’s pretty sad. Knucklehead does have some offensive moments, but not the good kind. As is standard for a lot of WWE entertainment, the minority characters are stereotypical and the butt of a lot of the jokes. We encounter a trucker smuggling Mexicans; a Jewish boxer Sugar Ray Rosenburg, the Monster of Matza, who Walter is convinced to beat down because “That guy hates Christmas”; and a smooth hustler black child that runs boxing fights out of his dad’s house. The movie pretends to have themes like the power of hope and believing in miracles but at its heart it is deeply cynical: Sister Francesca agrees to let Walter fight only after her cut of the purse is mentioned; Eddie’s love interest who works at the orphanage, Mary, reveals she used to be a stripper; a Jewish bookie runs fights out of a synagogue.
Will Patton, Dennis Farina, and Wendie Malick are all excellent character actors who have done great work in the past, but every time one of them was on the screen in Knucklehead I sat perplexed, asking “Why are you in this movie?” There is no point in hiring talented actors if there is nothing interesting for them to say. Case in point: Eddie’s statement “What do you mean the engine’s smoking?” as an engine is billowing smoke. Paul Wight is likable enough, but can’t be expected to carry a feature length film after the poop jokes outwear their welcome. Not even a mildly entertaining bear fight, reminiscent of Hercules in New York, can save this dumb, poorly written dud.
I feel like a Knucklehead for having sat through this movie.
Knucklehead is currently streaming on Netflix.