I’m a big fan of nights in with a glass of wine and a good fun film — especially this time of year, when baby, it’s cold outside, and you just want to snuggle up with someone special.
And what is more good fun than a playful romp featuring The Rock?
I am such a huge fan of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson: not only for his charm, charisma, humour, and dedication, but also because of the fact that he seems like an all-round decent human being. And so, in honour of his latest movie, and a recent date-night conversation about the film Moana, I have decided to write about... well...
So here, in no particular order, they are!
The Game Plan, 2007
Don’t come at me for the precocious child protagonist, predictable storyline, and improbable melodrama, because this is the kind of role where the Rock really shines: a velvet-voiced-Elvis-singing-buffoony-good-guy, just hanging out and enjoying his obscene wealth — but in a charming way. It’s got some funny lines, a passable plot, and some decent writing, and yeah, I’ll say it — I am always won over by his character arc. This film is satisfying, sweet, and has a fun performance by Kyra Sedgwick. Also, I learned a useful sports tidbit about one Peyton Manning, and I was able to use this knowledge to impress a sporty crowd not too long ago (no, I did not admit to them where my knowledge had come from).
This film is ridiculous, but just go with it — I promise it’s worth it. One of my favourite things about it is the star turn by major cutie Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who is quite clearly having the absolute time of his life — I’m not convinced he is even acting. He shows up seemingly only to deliver the lines of cheesy dialogue with incredible panache, grinning the whole way through, and helps to carry off a frankly insane plot (that had me Googling just how much can a gorilla really learn about the human sense of humour?) — while the Rock, of course, is his usual affable self. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that he is every inch the hero that the situation calls for.
The Rundown, 2003 (a.k.a. Welcome to the Jungle)
I love this excellent film. Yes, it’s silly, but it knows what it is meant to be, and by gosh does it commit. It’s lively and well-written, the plot trots along at a great place, and it’s just a satisfying buddy action-comedy romp with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and great banter. Sean William Scott is excellent in it, and Christopher Walken is always a perfect villain. This is fairly early in the Rock’s career, but there is no doubt that he has fully found his stride here — this film is an unabashed fun-fest, start to finish.
The Jumanji reboots, 2017 & 2019
No notes. I love these films. I was a child when the original came out and I knew it by heart: it was the perfect blend of scary and fun. I was not expecting much from the first reboot — let’s be honest, it’s not common for an obvious money-maker to stay true to the tone of the source material, while also having a good standalone plot and well-written story, but I really think these films deliver: they’re fun, silly, and full of Hijinks and Antics. The plot zips along with a compelling blend of problem-solving-quests, character development and slapstick comedy. I love the old-school video game throwbacks — add in a great cast of characters and some snappy dialogue, and there we go: I’m happy to curl up and rewatch these with you any time. Plus, you get a Flight of the Conchords cameo from the hilarious Rhys Darby!
San Andreas, 2015
Another one I had to immediately Google — and I’m delighted to say that there is a whole host of earthquake engineers angrily deriding this film on the internet, claiming that none of them would ever do a job so shoddy as to cause the damage to the buildings depicted in the film (pretty amusing to read, if you have the time — I did, because I watched this during the 2020 winter lockdown. Worth watching the film for this commentary alone, in my opinion). The Rock is excellent as a helicopter pilot who goes to all lengths to save his family from an earthquake/tidal wave combo, and the film also features a fabulous supporting cast of Carla Gugino and Alessandra Daddario (two of my favourite gorgeous brunettes). Plus, it also has a little appearance from one of my all time faves, Iain Gruffud (seriously, I’ll watch anything this guy is in, including the tv show where he was a 200 year-old immortal doctor in contemporary New York, and the one where he was the husband of twins both played by Sarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy) — and wait a minute, come to think of it, didn’t Kylie Minogue have a cameo of some kind? Madness, this film, honestly — genius madness.
Red Notice, 2021
This film is exactly what it was intended to be. Personally, I find it a little by-the-numbers, and slightly too aware of its obvious, playful quirkiness. The big personalities feel Very Big Indeed, and the whole production is a little slick and self-conscious. That said, of course I enjoyed it nonetheless — come on, what am I, made of stone? Ryan Reynolds as Ryan Reynolds, the Rock as the Rock, Gal Gadot as the sassy-hot female lead — the back-and-forth-buddy-adventure genre is one I perpetually enjoy, and this has a good amount of silliness and plenty of charm, and I especially enjoy being reminded that both Dwayne and Ryan have liquor brands to promote.
Race to Witch Mountain, 2016
Carla Gugino — yes, from San Andreas — is reunited with the Rock in this lively, family-fun movie, that is a contemporary remake of the 1975 Disney film. I find this film very easy to watch: the precocious children are actually precocious aliens, which makes it entirely tolerable. The Rock is his usual affable self, he has great chemistry with the wonderful Carla; there’s car chases, lively dialogue, an excellent dog — what’s not to like?
Escape from Alcatraz, 1979
I like this movie, though it is certainly not as lively as many other movies featuring the Rock. That said, it’s the oldest film on here by a few decades, and very reflective of when it was made — and while it might be slow, it is also tense and atmospheric, and makes excellent use of the claustrophobia of the prison experience, with lingering shots and many close-ups. The true story behind it is fascinating, and it really is a compelling film. Clint Eastwood is a leading man for the ages — I would watch him in anything.
Fighting With My Family, 2019
This charming, interesting, heart-warming film is a gem. True, it only just counts as a Rock movie, but though his appearances may be short, they really pack a (figurative) punch. Florence Pugh is fantastic as English professional wrestler Paige, the supporting British cast is packed full of winners, and Vince Vaughn has a very good turn playing not Vince Vaughn, for a change. The meet-the-parents dinner scene (featuring writer/director Stephen Merchant) is laugh-out-loud funny; plus you’ll get to hear Dwayne utter the line, dick me dead and bury me pregnant — could you ask for anything more? Don’t be surprised if you end up down a YouTube wrestling rabbit hole.
I know I said these were in no particular order, but it is possible that I left the best for last — this movie rocks (pun absolutely intended). Strong female protagonist, a non-romantic plot about overcoming your fears, some banging guest stars (another Flight of the Conchords cameo with Jermaine as the shiny crab) — and a fucking lit soundtrack courtesy of some incredibly talented Fijian and Samoan vocal groups and Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame. Bonus points for this one because you can also watch footage of the Rock singing his rap to his little girls while they paint his nails on Instagram — is there anything cuter in this world? And for a bit of trivia, you may have seen my tweet: on a recent re-watch of this banger, I found out that in some European countries, Moana’s name was changed to Vaiana. In Spain, this was due to copyright issues around the name Moana — but in Italy, it was changed to avoid confusion with popular (or infamous, I couldn’t work out which) adult film star, Moana Pozzi. Learn something new every day, huh?!
What do you think — have I missed out your favourite? Or maybe there’s something on here you haven’t seen, but wouldn’t mind curling up in front of on a cold night with your favourite London escort? Let me know on Twitter — or better yet, tell me in person!