Ready to Rumble

Dir: Brian Robbins
Star: David Arquette, Scott Caan, Oliver Platt, Rose McGowan

The failure of this film - and an idiotic promotional device which briefly made Arquette Heavyweight Champion - helped hasten the demise of WCW, and its subsequent takeover by WWE. Yet there's a strangely nostalgic, almost innocent feel about this, harking back to an earlier time when the two companies battled for domination of the wrestling airwaves as genuine enemies, rather than the faux RAW/Smackdown rivalry now present. The main weakness is an uncomfortable desire to portray wrestling as "real", when I don't know a single fan who believes that to be true. [Though it's not "fake" either, since there's no denying the athleticism or pain involved. The term "exhibition wrestling" is appropriate]. Gordie (Arquette) and Sean (Caan) are hardcore marks for the sport, who worship WCW champion Jimmy King (Platt). When he is screwed out of his title, they embark on a campaign to resurrect him to his former glory, only to discover he isn't quite the hero they imagined.

While Platt has physical presence, it's very, very obvious he is not doing the wrestling. I wonder why they got him, rather than one of the many real ones who pepper the film: Goldberg, or even Diamond Dallas Page, who did fine playing a wrestler on screen in Spiderman. Arquette and Caan are just another incarnation of Bill + Ted, or Dumb & Dumber; not a bad thing as such, and they have a rapport that makes this painless enough to watch, as they stagger from crisis to catastrophe to a triple-cage death match, for King to regain his crown. There are no surprises to be found here, except perhaps a quirky turn from Martin Landau as an old wrestler/trainer; everything else unfolds as you'd expect. Non-wrestling fans will smirk and feel vastly superior to all the characters; wrestling fans might too, except there's now enough nostalgia here to give this a certain retro-charm.

[June 2008]

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