If a WWE-produced film can’t get squared-circle action right, what can be expected of it? Knucklehead answers that question with middling Hallmark Channel drama and tone-deaf comedy. Directed with piledriver subtlety by Michael W. Watkins, this road-trip saga concerns charlatan fight promoter Eddy (Mark Feurstein), who prays to God to help him clear his debts. Having asked, he immediately receives Walter (WWE star Paul “Big Show” Wight), a dimwitted behemoth who agrees to be Eddy’s fighter at a New Orleans event because he needs money to help pay for fire-related damages he caused at his church orphanage home. The two are joined by Mary (Melora Hardin), an orphanage employee who serves as the group’s conscience as well as the eventual love interest for Eddy, though there are sparks to neither their union nor the proceedings at large, which mainly involve the soft-spoken Walter fumbling his way through fights with kooky adversaries, including a bear he defeats with a sleeper hold.
So feeble is their story that Knucklehead requires crutches, which here take the form of three separate farting sequences, one of which culminates with Walter getting stuck in—and needing the fire department to extricate his gargantuan ass from—a bus bathroom. Wight may be ever-so-slightly more expressive than fellow WWE combatant-turned-thespian John Cena, but his gentle-giant routine still makes Walter seem like a mentally handicapped boofus, albeit not one who’s remotely amusing or engaging. Even more pitiful, however, are the broadly hammy contributions of Wendie Malick as the orphanage’s tough mother superior, Saul Rubinek as a rabbi staging temple-set fight nights attended by Hasidic caricatures, and Dennis Farina as Eddy’s evil nemesis.
Throughout, the film strives to straddle the line between ribaldry and family-values squishiness. Yet while Hardin briefly struts about in a tight red dress and, soon afterward, drop-kicks a waitress while wearing only a bra and panties, such minor concessions to frat-boy comedy dictates are overwhelmed by the signature skirmishes’ slapsticky nature and the plot’s toothless lethargy, which is so pronounced that the script can’t even bother concocting the requisite late-second-act crisis that threatens to derail the heroes’ quest. At least the title is apt, as a description for both the film and anyone who chooses to be its audience.