Bulking up: Zac Efron in ‘The Iron Claw’.
THE IRON CLAW ***1/2 (132 minutes) MA
While ingesting the excellent period sports drama The Iron Claw it might well take you a moment or two to clock that the head atop the block of bulging muscles representing professional 1980s wrestler Kevin Von Erich is, in fact, Zac Efron.
Once a teen heart-throb made famous via the High School Musical films, Efron has evolved into a versatile actor, avoiding the horrors of typecasting, much like Daniel Radcliffe from Harry Potter.
To play Kevin Von Erich, part of the legendary family of professional wrestlers, Efron built a formidable physique and the transformation is amazing. No prosthetics here, that’s all him jumping and tumbling in the film’s numerous wrestling bouts.
More impressive is his performance beyond the ring as a member of a driven, success-obsessed family striving to triumph in a massively popular, and widely derided, sport.
Along with its victories in the ring, the tight-knit clan was also stricken by a string of tragedies referred to as The Von Erich Curse.
Written and directed by Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene) the ensemble film is both brutal and touching, its focus squarely on the values that keep the brood from collapsing.
The cast includes Jeremy Allen White, so good in The Bear, who also got into shape for the film.
THE JUNGLE BUNCH 2: WORLD TOUR *** (89 minutes) PG
Primed for restless kids is The Jungle Bunch 2: World Tour, a snappy, fun-filled adventure featuring the French-born Jungle Bunch gang of kooky critters who, bouncing from their TV show, registered their movie debut in 2017 with The Jungle Bunch, a film people loved but critics hated.
It’s a sprightly sequel that sends the gang on a mission to save the trees of their jungle home which has been doused in a chemical powder that explodes upon contact with water. So, it’s a race against the approaching rain front.
The villain of the piece is a rather enterprising capitalist rodent whose dastardly scheme of denuding the jungle is so he can then get rich by selling the suddenly homeless animals portable shelters.
Enjoyably silly, the lark moves at a brisk pace and keeps the gags firing fast enough to keep kids from getting too listless.