Cinemalphabet: M is for The Main Event
Ryan O’Neal joins Babs for this surprisingly funny flick fueled by the power of belligerent sexual tension and the promise of a kick ass song over the end credits. The premise involves Hillary (Babs), a fabulous perfume maker, going broke with the help of a shady business manager who bones out with all her cheddar. After settling her debts she’s left with one asset – a washed up prize fighter’s (O’Neal) contract. But there’s a catch. There’s always a catch when your prize fighter looks like Ryan O’Neal at the tail end of his 70s hotness. He doesn’t actually fight. He’s merely paid to be a fighter and throw a few matches – for taxes purposes – but actually runs a failing driving school out of a building shaped like a giant boxing glove. In fact he has a bit of a fear of getting hit. Determined to recoup her losses, Hillary decides she will kind of manage him to ensure he actually wins fights to pay off his debt. Of course they “hate” each other and have one of those push me/pull me relationships that is the stuff of romcom tropery.
Along for the journey are Whitman Mayo, who co-stars as Kid Natural’s (yeah that’s O’Neal’s character) manager/co-conspirator, a post Andy Warhol/pre-New York Undercover Patti D’Arbanville and Barney Miller’s annoying boss Inspector Luger James Gregory. Ernie Hudson has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him scene at the beginning, but I was removing my old polish during the exposition so I only heard his voice and couldn’t tell you if the performance was memorable.
Hillary seems to be the forerunner to Carrie Bradshaw, particularly her penchant for zingers and deliciously inappropriate footwear. Strappy sandals and sequins in boxing ring? Seriously? Actually the costuming is pretty fly. Lots of shiny monochromatic and skimpy outfits. And unless you don’t have a lot of exposure to rom-com it’s fairly obvious where this train is headed and the ride is enjoyable. O’Neal and Babs have surprisingly effective chemistry so much so that you almost don’t notice how embarrassingly awful the “boxing” is. You can see better faux fighting on Jerry Springer. But since this isn’t really a boxing film I’m inclined to let that slide. In addition, neither actor is doing anything you haven’t seen them do before. With O’Neal, it’s like Oliver Barrett IV decided to move to LA and disappoint his father in a milder climate. And Babs, well, she plays Babs mostly and that’s perfectly fine with me.
But that song. I tell what. The theme song is discolicious. There is nothing better than a slow, melodic intro that bursts into a high octane booty shaker. Though this is more of a wannabe Fosse jazz hands thing. Definitely lots of big finish fake outs peppered throughout the song. I dare you not to toss your head back and throw your hands in the air while attempting the high notes.
Jazz hands to the sky, baby!
And of course shadowboxing. I’m pretty sure similar to the music from Rocky it’s a federal offense not to shadowbox while belting this out in front of a mirror or a bar full of drunken New Englanders.