Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | April 10th, 2020
The Main Event (Jay Karas, 2020) 2½ out of 4 stars.
11-year-old Leo dreams of wrestling for the WWE. Unfortunately, as a physically slight kid, he is daily reminded of how far those fantasies are from reality, chased and harassed as he is by bullies both in school and on his way home. One day, however, to escape, he runs inside an old mansion where he discovers, hidden away in a dusty room, a wrestling mask of powerful odor and even more powerful magic. Once he dons it, he gains super strength and wild confidence. It offers him a way to not only fight back against those bullies, but also fight in the ring.
Director Jay Karas (Break Point) is not out to make great art here, but rather some genial family entertainment, a task in which he and his team succeed, albeit not always as gracefully as one might like. As Leo, Seth Carr (Breaking In) has a winning smile and a fair amount of natural charm, able to easily switch from nerdy kid to man-boy with attitude. His besties Riyaz and Caleb, played by Aryan Simhadri and Glen Gordon, are also both fun, if mere narrative sidekicks, and Momona Tamada, as love interest Erica, holds her own, too. If the jokes are often obvious and the humor sometimes stale, the performances are the cohesive glue that keep the solid dramatic structure together.
There’s even some odd, offbeat repartee between the adults to offer something for older viewers. Leo’s single dad, played by Adam Pally (Slow Learners), has a tough time managing parenting on his own now that mom has suddenly left, and so calls upon grandma, played by Tichina Arnold (Countdown), to help out. Their mildly dysfunctional relationship is one of the better, less predictable parts of the film, refusing to conform to any particular cliché. Given that he is white and she is black, it’s also refreshing how the movie takes that fact as nothing to talk about, just as it casually throws together Leo’s mixed groups of friends.
For the rest, though seeing Leo strike back at his tormentors has shades of Spider-Man, much as seeing him change personality once the mask is on has shades of, well, The Mask, that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to watch. Ditto his tryouts for professional wrestling and subsequent triumphs, and double ditto the eventual lessons learned about friendship and finding true strength within (who needs a mask, right?). Yes, we can tell a mile away how it will all end, yet can still enjoy the event.