2021 has been an exceptionally good year for animation. Come the Academy Award Nominations for best animated film, I greatly look forward to seeing what is competing for the top prize. Late-in-the-year animated entry Rumble is one that is sure to be missing from the coveted nominees list. A film’s legacy is of course not strictly about award accolades, but I expected more from this offering. Scribe of Addams Family, Scoob!, and Christmas Chronicles, Matt Lieberman teams with Hamish Grieve (Head of Story on films including Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie and Rise of the Guardians) and Alexandra Bracken (The Darkest Minds) in a match that sounds potentially like a winning formula. It is not that Rumble is a particularly awful movie, it just is not much to write home about.
Monster wrestling is a global sport with athletes that are quite literally superstars. Human and creature have teamed up to create this insanely popular new sport. Potentially the most famous of all in monster wrestling is Monster Rayburn and his Coach Jimbo. When the duo gets lost at sea forever, and the only remaining monster, Tentacular, departs for “Slitherpoole,” the town of Stoker becomes in desperate need of income. No monsters means no money for Stoker—indeed, the only way to get out of the literal money pit they are in may be to take a deal from rising conglomerate ‘Slitherpoole.’ Coach Jimbo’s daughter, a street-smart and passionate young girl named Winnie (Geraldine Viswanathan), may be their only hope. She must team up with an underdog wrestler named Steve (Will Arnett) to coach him up to a victory against reigning champion, Tentacular.
I liked Winnie a fair amount as the lead character, finding her a pleasant person to follow overall as voiced by Geraldine Viswanathan. The connection she has with her father over watching the monster matches makes her motivations endearing and personal. Steve, who has his own sordid past and a weird deal in which he must throw every match he competes in, is rather fun as well. And yet, it still feels like something in their relationship is missing. An ideal team-up usually has more personality and verve that either character is fully capable of displaying.
Rumble has fun moments that kids will probably love. The audience being drenched in the drool of a massive bulldog monster made me smile, and a gag that reminded me of a recurring Austin Powers joke is lovingly executed (you will know it when you see it). The maturity and spark of sharper content simply does not reflect the overall quality here. At the end of the day, Rumble is perfectly serviceable for a kid, yet leaves much to be desired as an adult.
Rumble cues up a new fighting montage when it comes exclusively to Paramount+ on Wednesday, December 15th.