In 2010, the muscle-bound brutes behind WWE’s film division deviated from their comfort zone of movies about steroid cases wreaking righteous havoc: Their unexpectedly somnolent coming-of-age drama Legendary, starring noted thespian John Cena, was tastefully austere. WWE continues to branch out into new, mildly novel forms of crap with The Chaperone, a vehicle for lumbering, predictably inexpressive professional grappler Paul “Triple H” Levesque. The Chaperone is being marketed as a comedy, though no one seems to have told anyone involved. The juxtaposition of comically oversized macho men and hilariously undersized moppets suggests comedy; the dour tone, grim performances, and maddening dearth of anything resembling gags suggests otherwise. It’s as if Levesque, in a misguided attempt to be taken seriously as an actor, kept having heavy emotional scenes added to the script until it resembled a Sundance-friendly miserablist drama. The story follows an ex-con trying to reconnect emotionally with his resentful daughter, and throws in a gag every half-hour or so to keep things from getting too soul-crushing.
Looking disconcertingly like Spalding Gray after an HGH binge, Levesque plays a gentle giant once known as the best wheelman in the business. After a seven-year bid for a botched robbery, Levesque decides to go straight, but his past catches up with him when former partner-in-crime Kevin Corrigan tries to rope him into one last robbery. He doesn’t take it well when a suddenly conscience-stricken Levesque decides he’d rather chaperone his daughter’s school field trip then serve as Corrigan’s getaway driver.
It’d be tempting to dismiss The Chaperone as a threadbare knockoff of tough-guys-in-tutus fare like The Pacifier or Kindergarten Cop, but even that is giving the film too much credit. Those films at least attempted to eke humor out of the sight gag of a writhing mass of muscles mixing it up with the Blue’s Clues set. The Chaperone is so suffocatingly sad and grey, it’s bound to depress children and bore adults to the point of distraction. It doesn’t just fail as a comedy, it fails to be a comedy. That almost qualifies as an achievement.