‘The Main Event’ is a film for young WWE fans only; there is little broad appeal to this fantasy.
Kernel Rating: 2.5 out of 5
MPAA Rating: TV-G (on Netflix) Length: 101 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 12+. ‘The Main Event’ follows an 11-year-old superfan of WWE, who watches wrestling whenever he can and dreams of being a WWE superstar. The film never acknowledges that WWE uses fictional narratives and stunts during its bouts, so some of the violence here is presented as real, which might be scary for younger kids or might inspire them to try some of the riskier wrestling moves presented here. For that reason, the film might not be suitable for very young viewers. During matches, competitors chase and tackle each other, throw each other around the ring, hold each other down, flip around and throw down elbows, and one competitor, called “Stinkface,” rubs himself all over other competitors and lets out massive farts. The protagonist’s grandmother has a crush on a certain player and talks at length about what she would like to do to him romantically; the protagonist himself has a crush on a classmate and he lightly flirts with her a few times; there is a bullying subplot and some insults; the protagonist’s mother abandoned the family and her absence is discussed.
By Roxana Hadadi
For wrestling fans, Netflix’s “The Main Event” might be a delight. The film, produced by the WWE wrestling organization, is stuffed with cameos of wrestling stars, and it treats the WWE like the center of the universe—like the only thing that children, their families, and their entire town would be interested in. There is a single-mindedness to “The Main Event” that might appeal to people, in particular young viewers, who already like wrestling. But “The Main Event” doesn’t do anything to interest people outside of that core viewership, and it won’t entertain audiences outside of its very specific demographic.
“The Main Event” follows 11-year-old Lou (Seth Carr), whose entire life seems to revolve around the WWE. His bed is a miniature wrestling ring, his walls are covered with posters of WWE personalities, and his wardrobe is full of T-shirts decorated with wrestlers’ faces. As a talented artist, Lou only seems to sketch brightly colored comic book-style images of his favorite wrestlers in action. He doesn’t have any interest in anything else, and although his Grandma Denise (Tichina Arnold) shares his love of the WWE, his father Steve (Adam Pally) doesn’t. Steve, forced to work two jobs to cover the bills after his wife abandoned the family, doesn’t have much time to connect to Seth anymore. And although Seth misses his mother, he isn’t trying to connect to his dad, either.
Instead, Seth burrows deeper into his love of wrestling—and his dreams of being a WWE superstar come true when he finds a luchador-style wrestling mask. (The film makes a joke of the fact that the mask smells like death, which is a weird element to gloss over!) When Seth puts the mask on, he has special powers—agility, super strength, and a deeper, more adult voice, along with a wittier sense of humor. With all the skills now needed to be a successful wrestler, Seth enters a contest the WWE is holding in his town. The winner of the contest receives a contract with the WWE’s NXT offshoot and a $50,000 check—and for some reason, no one realizes that Seth, now going by the moniker Kid Chaos, is an actual child. As he moves further in the competition, though, does Seth lose something about his own personality by becoming Kid Chaos?
The core problem with “The Main Event” is that Seth actually doesn’t learn much of anything about being a better friend through his experience with the mask: Although he clearly becomes infatuated with the fame that comes with being a popular wrestler, he doesn’t have to work to repent for breaking promises to his friends. They immediately forgive him because they think the mask is so cool. Similarly, although he rejects all attempts by his father to connect with him, he expects that his dad will support his interest in wrestling, although it hurts his father to remember how much Seth and his mother watched WWE together. Of course, to be a parent is to support your child—but it’s strange that “The Main Event” makes wrestling such a primary concern in Seth’s life, and then doesn’t make any space for him to be interested in anything else, or interested in connecting with anyone else outside of wrestling.
For young viewers interested in wrestling, though, Seth’s transformation into Kid Chaos might be amusing: His powers allow him to lightly kick a tree and cleave it in half; he can practically fly across the wrestling ring; and he can whirl, spin, and dance around other competitors. All of that stuff should be exciting for fans of WWE in general. It’s just strange that “The Main Event” sidesteps away from some of the moral questions that should be involved in this film; nevertheless, perhaps they could be posed to young viewers after the film concludes. Is Seth’s use of the magical mask cheating? What could Seth and his father do to connect in light of his mother’s absence? Should Seth’s friends have forgiven him so quickly for ignoring them for fame? Those are worthwhile questions that would add some value outside of WWE marketing to “The Main Event,” which as presented is just an overly long commercial for the wrestling promotion and little else.
“The Main Event” is currently streaming on Netflix.