Ready to Rumble, directed by Brian Robbins and written by Steven Brill, might have been called “Dumb and Dumber Go to the Mat.” Its ostensible look behind the scenes at professional wrestling could have followed the trail blazed by the excellent Beyond the Mat, reviewed here last month. Instead the movie settles for repeated attempts at Farrelly brothers-style gross-out humor — attempts which, almost invariably, fail. I mean the humor part, not the gross-out part. The latter is very successful indeed, but without the humor not likely to be many people’s idea of a fun night out at the movies. On the other hand, if you’re the kind of person who thinks that a bunch of farting nuns singing Van Halen’s “Runnin’ with the devil” is screamingly funny, this may be the movie for you.
Another reason why the film fails, I think, is its obvious contempt for the people it portrays, in spite of its inclusion in the cast of some real wrestlers who get mostly respectful treatment. Its main character, a crowd-idol called Jimmy King (Oliver Platt) who wrestles in royal regalia is an appalling scumbag, and the two fans, Sean (Scott Caan) and Gordie (David Arquette) who guide him back from defeat and disgrace to another shot at the championship are not much better. True, at a crucial moment, Jimmy promises his long-abandoned slattern of a wife and their cretinous son to put his life in order again and do right by them both, but we never see this happening, and both wife and son are such unattractive characters themselves that we don’t much care if it ever does happen.
Likewise, Gordie’s dad is a fanatical state policeman who wants Gordie to follow in his footsteps instead of becoming a slacker and wrestling groupie. After all, the rest of the family are all cops, and dad boasts proudly one day when Gordie comes home that “Your sister shot her first perp today.” Dad — who is also a homophobe and latent homosexual — likes shooting things, and even points his weapon at Gordie in an attempt to make him behave and take his police exam. Ha ha. Those red-neck cops are obviously even dumber than the wrestling fans whom they affect to look down on.
Actually, dad is given the movie’s best line. When Gordie bleats that his life as “The King’s” groupie he is just “following my dream,” dad replies: “Charlie Manson was following his dream. So was Joe Stalin. So was Michael Bolton. You get my point.”
And, briefly, Gordie does get the point. When Sean and the King urge him to follow them to the big match by saying “It’s your dream” he replies: “My dream’s stupid….It’s time to put away childish things.”
Yeah, right. See if you can get odds on the duration of that resolution. No one makes any money on a movie in which the idiot slackers actually grow up.