Forgettably average, Grudge Match capitalizes on a compelling cast and a positive idea, but it falters on a weak script.
All of the biggest stars are gamely solid. Stallone, De Niro, Bassinger, Arkin, LL Cool J, Kevin Hart. All are good, though not great. They hold the screen, keep us interested, buy attention.
Playing B.J, Jon Bernthal gives the best performance in this movie. B.J. is not well developed, but Bernthal still makes him more interesting than the other characters.
The plot is predictable and borderline cliche, but it is not so offensive as to completely drag down the film.
Mostly because Grudge Match is funny. Hart, Arkin, De Niro, Stallone and B.J’s son (Camden Grey) take turns making us laugh, ensuring we are amused by their antics.
Which is a good thing, because even the central characters are underdeveloped. Neither Billy McDonnen (De Niro) nor Henry Sharp (Stallone) are given enough treatment to move beyond archetype. Sally Rose (Bassinger) is without personality, serving only to inspire Sharp, to give him precisely what he wants.
And B.J. eventually makes a decision most devoted parents would never make, no matter Billy’s pleading and too-little-too-late emotional gestures. Worse, B.J. makes this decision without the slightest explanation from Director Peter Segal and the movie’s three credited writers.
While the actor’s costumes are interesting and help us understand these characters, and while the camera is sometimes placed cleverly, none of Grudge Match’s technical elements stand out as spectacular.
Badly developed characters. A formulaic plot. Unspectacular technical elements. Grudge Match succumbs to all of these, which means it should fail, should fall apart.
But it doesn’t, because no matter its flaws, it is always fun. Sometimes that’s enough.