The plot device of some magical sporting gear serves as the basis in the Netflix film, The Main Event. Directed by Jay Karas, The Main Event tells the story of Leo Thompson, a precious eleven-year-old wrestling fanatic who lives with his father Steve (Adam Palley) and grandmother Denise (Tichina Arnold). Leo has big dreams of becoming a WWE superstar and one day reuniting with his mother. Somewhat of an outcast at his middle school, Leo’s only friends are Caleb (Glen Gordon) and Riyaz (Aryan Simhadri), who share his love of pro wrestling.
On the run from bullies after school one day, Leo hides out in a mansion and comes across a luchador wrestling mask. When Leo tries the mask on, he is taken aback by the funky smell; however, he soon learns that the mask gives him super strength and enhanced abilities.
When Leo learns that WWE is holding open auditions in his town, he decides to try out. Dubbing himself “Kid Chaos,” Leo quickly becomes a fan favorite and even finds a friend in fellow competitor “Smooth Operator” (Keith Lee). Along the way, Leo also finds time to romance his classmate Erica (Momona Tamada).
Screenwriter Larry Postel’s script for The Main Event follows the typical beats of similarly themed family films from the past. There’s a villain in the form of Frankie (Ken Marino) who manages the silent brute Samson (Babatunde Aiyegbusi), who we know Leo will end up facing in the film’s finale. Leo’s success goes to his head, and he forgets what’s essential, and naturally, there’s a conflict involving Leo’s dad, who works two jobs to support the family and has little time for his son. Thankfully the performance by Seth Carr helps elevate the film a bit.
Carr, who you may remember as the young Killmonger from the megahit Black Panther, possesses a natural charm. The young actor portrays Leo as an actual tween, and the script never attempts to age the character beyond his years from a wisdom standpoint. Instead of trying to age Leo by putting the character in adult style situations for laughs, the filmmakers never let us forget that he’s eleven years old. The scenes of Leo with his family and friends were all fun to watch, and I’m thankful there aren’t any scenes showing Leo and his fellow wrestlers drinking alcohol or hitting bars trying to pick up ladies.
Watching the film with my son, who is a die-hard WWE fan, was a bit of treat as my son felt that he saw himself on screen. I was never a wrestling fan, so my son had to point out the film’s many cameos, which include The Miz, Kofi Kingston, Sheamus, Otis, Mia Yim, Corey Graves, and Renee Young. Also, seeing Leo’s room adorned with posters of WWE superstars, as well as Leo’s drawings of his favorite characters, remind us of all of the innocent times in our life.
While I generally found much to enjoy with The Main Event, the film isn’t without its flaws. My son pointed out numerous mistakes (which I won’t share here) that may upset some WWE purists. While I generally enjoyed both Tichina Arnold and Adam in the roles of Leo’s grandmother and dad, the two actors are only thirteen years apart in age, so it was a bit of a distraction for me.
Nevertheless, The Main Event is still suitable for family entrainment. With a heartfelt performance by young Seth Carr and a brisk execution of its simplicity, The Main Event is sure to please young wrestling fans everywhere.
Final Grade C+