After Legendary and Knucklehead, The Chaperone gives WWE entertainment a losing three-count, definitively proving that the wrestling corporation should, as many of its latest film’s characters love to remark, “let it go” when it comes to big-screen ventures. In this pastiche of genre clichés, Paul “Triple H” Levesque stars as Ray-Ray, a getaway driver who—after serving seven years in prison, and rehabilitating himself through self-help books and a radio call-in show—reenters society as just Ray, a symbolic dispatching of his former, no-good self. Ray wants to reunite with his angry ex-wife, Lynne (Annabeth Gish), and estranged tween daughter, Sally (Ariel Winter), but they’re still bitter and the lure of his old profession is too great, with former partner-in-crime Larue (Kevin Corrigan) offering a heist-of-a-lifetime proposition. Waiting for his cohorts to finish robbing a bank, however, Ray bails and instead accompanies Sally as the chaperone on her school trip to a New Orleans art museum and the city’s French Quarter, along the way both scaring kids (and educating educators, including Lisa Simpson voicer Yeardley Smith) with his no-bullshit sternness, and fleeing Larue, whose stolen loot has coincidentally wound up on the school’s bus.
Compared to his squared-circle compatriots, Triple H is no better or worse a thespian, coming across as far more comfortable growling and flexing his biceps than emoting or being funny. Still, S.J. Roth’s script is so amateurish that every other concern, including Mister Holland’s Opus helmer Stephen Herek’s flat direction and incessant, blunt musical cues, ultimately seems secondary. Crime caper, redemption saga, and family melodrama are various modes in which the film haphazardly operates, all via dialogue that’s tin-eared, comedically challenged, and exposition-heavy, as well as faux-suspenseful sequences lacking basic logic or tension. Sally’s classmates are an assorted cast of caricatures, including the explosives-loving warmonger, the preppie nerd, and the collagen-obsessed pretty girl, and Corrigan’s hoodlum is a stock type whose furious exclamations are, in terms of humorous timing, always just a beat too early or late. Meanwhile, padding out the proceedings are a joke about the functionality of a universal remote control (hey, how do you work these crazy things?!?) and a series of feeble switched-bag and firecrackers-sound-like-guns gags, all of which confirm that, though Ray is mocked for his adherence to platitudes, this hulk-with-a-heart-of-gold fable embraces banalities with a vigor matched only by its lack of imagination.