Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Is A Better Comedy Star Than An Action Hero
In many ways, it makes sense for professional wrestlers like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, John Cena, and Dave Bautista to go from wrestling ring boys to silver screen swole stars. After all, WWE wrestlers are performers, too — more so than football players and sportsmen who like to fight each other on ice skates.
It’s an obvious choice for these Muscle Men to get roped into Hollywood and immediately be billed as big action movie stars. They already have the proper stage combat training, they’re built for stunts, and their whole shtick simply screams, “I will break your back mid-air while jumping from a helicopter on fire!” Don’t get us wrong, we enjoy watching these former pro-wrestlers crashing through walls and leaping off skyscrapers — The Rock does this in most of his movies. However, putting them in comedies not only subverts our expectations but also gives these guys the opportunity to showcase some range.
And make no mistake, that they do. Before becoming Peacemaker and making “butt baby” jokes, Cena already showed off his comedy chops in the 2016 comedy Trainwreck:
Bautista played the overly literal Drax well enough in Guardians of the Galaxy, but it’s Johnson who’s starred in the most comedy movies to date, with seemingly more success than his action movie counterparts (sans those films about angry cars going fast or whatever). There’s been this observation floating around on social media of late that The Rock’s movies are generally low-rated and, according to people's opinions, not very good. So, let’s break his filmography down in numbers, shall we?
Most of Johnson’s action movies seem to have low ratings, and of the 36 movies he’s appeared in up until 2021, 23 of them have received Rotten critics scores. Of the 13 movies with Fresh scores, we have seven comedies, five Fast and Furious entries, and however you want to classify Jungle Cruise. Count in this year’s Free Guy (rated at 80%), and the comedy category gets one more player. It’s also worth pointing out that two of his three top-rated comedy movies — Moana and Free Guy — have him only doing voice work, and we only get about five minutes of him in the hilarious comedy, The Other Guys.
Over at the Box Office, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (76%) ended up being his highest-grossing movie after Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious. Granted, action movies tend to reap more at the ol’ BO than comedies do, simply because explosions and car chases are made for the big screen. It sure does seem, however, that, in general, the people enjoy Funny Rock more than Serious Rock. Factor in Johnson’s Peacock sitcom, Young Rock, sitting at a 91% approval score, while Black Adam is currently bombing with critics, and we can’t help but wonder: Should Johnson just do more comedies?
It must be said that the guy who looks like a giant bean bag full of metal doesn’t always fare well in comedy movies, but this is mostly due to the fact that those movies cast him in the non-funny roles. Titles like Baywatch, The Game Plan, and Red Notice are all billed as comedies or action comedies but have Johnson playing straight macho dudes who take themselves way too seriously. Where we really get to see The Rock bringing the funny — and this goes for all “tough guy” typecasting — is when he’s turning the machismo on its head by poking fun at it. The best example of this is his unicorn-loving, goofy softie character, Bob Stone, who can also kick butt in the well-received 2016 action comedy Central Intelligence.
The movie is a great marriage of comedy and action, with fans still getting to see Johnson jump out of a building.
There’s also his second highest-ranked movie, Fighting with My Family, that's a dramedy based on a true story and has Johnson poking fun at himself by coming across as an entitled douchebag.
All of this seems to point to two things: Johnson needs to do more action comedies, and he should totally play more actual comedy parts. We’ve seen him “save the world” enough already. Now we want to see him playing fumbling nice guys who are into baking shows and will totally karaoke Spice Girls at the drop of a hat. The world needs more Rock comedies.
Thumbnail: Universal Pictures