An inoffensive family-friendly wish-fulfilment comedy embodying WWE’s public-facing values – and ironically enough its uninspired creative department.
The Main Event (Netflix) debuted on April 10, 2019.
Coming right on the sweaty heels of The Big Show Show, Jay Karas’ wish-fulfillment fantasy The Main Event suggests Netflix is becoming the place for family-friendly WWE programming. This outing, which doesn’t make much of a challenge for the title belt currently held by Fighting With My Family, is basically a feature-length endorsement of the company’s public-facing ideals and values, pitched squarely at the portion of their audience who’s most likely to lap it all up.
There’s nothing wrong with this, and the film’s premise, which sees bullied eleven-year-old Leo Thompson (Seth Carr) live out his lifelong pro-wrestling fantasies when he stumbles on a magic Lucha libre mask, is charmingly earnest in its ideas of being true to oneself and one’s ambitions. Leo has a frosty relationship with his mechanic father Steve (Adam Pally), a loving one with his influencer grandma Denise (Tichina Arnold), and an antagonistic one with the classmates who see his stature and his lack of confidence as an excuse to relentlessly bully him; to him, the new disguise and the super-powered alter-ego it allows him to become represents not just potential financial stability and the pro-wrestling superstardom he has always coveted, but a family-friendly middle finger raised in defiance at those who said he couldn’t do it.
This is all predictable, and The Main Event relies on that. The film’s so up-front about its messages that lots of story and character beats are repeated a couple of times to make sure the young audience got them, which is annoying for the adults watching and presumably a bit patronizing to the nippers, too. The supposedly heartfelt sequences – with one notable exception paying tribute to Roddy Piper – don’t feel earned as a result; they’re just the logical payoffs for obvious groundwork, and the kids aren’t likely to care anyway since they’ll be playing spot-the-wrestler. The Main Event can’t really escape its double-duty as a corporate advertisement.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.