WWE’s newest venture into family entertainment is the wrestling equivalent of 2002’s “Like Mike”. While hiding from bullies, an 11-year-old WWE fan named Leo Thompson (Seth Carr) finds a stinky mask that magically grants him super strength and charisma. Coincidentally, WWE is about to run a tournament in his hometown fo find the next star, so Leo hops on the opportunity to fulfill his sports entertainment dream. It also helps that his father needs money and there’s a grand prize awaiting the winner.
As you guessed, “The Main Event” is a kids movie plagued with cliches: the scrawny kid being bullied, the school crush that likes Leo better without the mask, the sassy grandmother that supports him, it’s all there. But it also has some charming moments, over-the-top fun action and if you’re a wrestling fan, there are appearances from a bunch of WWE stars such as The Miz, Keith Lee, Kofi Kingston and Sheamus.
And behind all the wrestling bravado, Larry Postel’s script tries to give his protagonist some depth in the form of an absent mother, and a father (played by Adam Pally) that doesn’t know how to communicate. Unfortunately, this ends up being a missed chance at creating a stronger emotional hook: Leo’s backstory is poorly developed and the message it’s trying to convey never sticks the landing.
I found that “The Main Event” was better when Leo was with his friends: their chemistry, nerdy dialogue and twist in their relationship was more engaging than everything else in the movie. Despite being limited, this coming-of-age aspect allows the protagonist to grow and feel more human. I just wish there was more of it.
I’m not very patient with child acting, but Seth Carr (who played a young Killmonger in “Black Panther”) is very good here. His confidence in the role helps reduce the feeling of cringe during the most ridiculous scenes and his interactions feel legitimate with pretty much everyone on the cast. In the ‘wrestler acting’ side of things, there’s not much to highlight except for Renee Young’s terrific line deliveries and Keith Lee: the big man has a bigger role than I expected and despite the lousy lines he has to say out loud, his charisma comes through in all of his scenes. The man is just charming.
Unfortunately for adults, the whole movie is very campy and it sometimes feels more like a dirty WWE marketing tool to watch their product than a heartfelt story about a kid trying to help his dad. This should come to as surprise, after all it’s a WWE Studios film, but the lack of subtlety, the weird wrestling language, the obvious references, the cringe catchphrases… all of this can be too much. Expect many eye-rolling moments.
“The Main Event” is an enjoyable, light comedy designed for kids that won’t do much for grown-ups. It’s a solid option to enjoy with your children during these trying times but nothing more. If you’re looking for better (and recent) professional wrestling-themed films, you should turn your head to “The Peanut Butter Falcon” and “Fighting with My Family” instead.
“The Main Event” is available on Netflix.