‘Young Rock’ Depicts A Hilarious And Thoughtful Perspective Of Dwayne Johnson’s Life – Review
Young Rock starts off strong, and it can only get better and better. What else does one expect from The Rock? I had the chance to watch the first three episodes of Young Rock, the series about the life of the one and only Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Set in a fictional reality, the series takes us about 10 years into the future and of course, Johnson is still a superstar that is even more famous than he already is now. In this reality, Johnson has officially pursued a career in politics and is running for president. To prove that he is not just an attention-seeking celebrity, he decides to do a candid sit-down interview conducted by Randall Park. Park plays a retired version of himself – which is funny considering he is currently in the biggest show in the world right now, WandaVision. Park’s role on the show should come as no surprise to anyone as he has a long-standing work relationship with showrunner and co-creator Nahnatchka Khan, who directed Park in Always Be My Maybe and Fresh Off the Boat.
Johnson narrates his life which is structured in three parts with three different young Rock’s to follow. We have 10-year-old Johnson played by Adrian Groulx, 15-year-old Johnson played by Bradley Constant, and 18-year-old Johnson played by Uli Latukefu. Each actor crushes it in their respective roles of each of the young versions of the Rock.
Although we get different portrayals of Johnson, his family and the ensemble cast remain the same throughout Rock’s life, which includes his late father, the legendary wrestler Rocky “Soulman” Johnson (Joseph Lee Anderson). Anderson does a great job of maintaining the same fatherly chemistry with each version of young Rock, despite him working off of different actors. The same rings true for Stacey Leilua who plays his mother, Ata. The other cast of characters that were prominent figures in his life includes his grandmother and wrestling promoter Lia Maivia (Ana Tuisila) and Andre the Giant (Matthew Willig).
I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed all three episodes. Pilots for sitcoms can be hit or miss, and the first episode knocks it out of the park as the show is both new and familiar. It is refreshing to see a fairly new group of diverse Black and Polynesian actors take centre stage in a typical American sitcom, which gives off that familiarity that Khan so perfectly captured in Fresh off the Boat.
The scenes between present-day Rock and Park are hilarious, help tell the story and transition us smoothly from different decades without it getting confusing. It also changes up the typical narration from these types of sitcoms. The comedic beats also help carry the heavier topics. When it comes to fictionalizing Johnson’s childhood, the show doesn’t shy away from serious things that happened such as his fighting, stealing and getting arrested in his youth. In the first episode, we get a glimpse at all three portrayals of Young Rock but we spend the most time with the 15-year-old version (Constant) as he tries to navigate a new school under the guise of being rich. One of the funniest things about Constant playing a 15-year-old is that he is 22, this is an intentional casting as Johnson himself has joked about looking older when was younger.
In 2019, the film Fighting with My Family was released. It was produced by Johnson, who makes a brief cameo, and in it, the film does a great job altering one’s perspective of wrestling. It provides a whole new point-of-view on how wrestlers engage with the sport and the passion they put into it. It also illustrated how the sport could be a family business with real financial stakes attached. This series does very much that, painting a picture of how Johnson found himself as one of the most recognized wrestlers in the world, and it starts with his family.
As the show navigates a story about family and a coming-of-age narrative the show also weaves in some necessary thematic messages. Johnson has learned a lot and bestows some of the knowledge onto us through this sitcom. One of the things Johnson has learned along his journey is the importance of family and prioritizing those who care about you and who have your back vs just trying to impress people. Also, personal growth is not entirely disconnected from your roots, and one should embrace who one is to become who one is meant to be.
Overall, I’ve got to say I’m extremely impressed with Young Rock and cannot wait to see how the show continues to unfold. Despite being a glamorized version of Johnson’s life, there is a lot to gain and feel connected to. Also, a highly-stylized and show-offy approach is very much his style so there really isn’t any other way to tell his story.
5/5 (based on Episodes 1-3)