Wrestling - for all of its flash pots, Solid Gold dancers, and large, scantily clad, sweaty men - is the 21st century version of Ringing Bros., Barnum and Bailey's traveling tent show. When I was a kid, I used to watch the exploits of Andre the Giant, Macho Man Randy Savage, and the Honky Tonk Man. The newest generation of wrestlers have never interested me, with all of the theatrics and bad, bad attitudes toward almost everything under the sun. The "sport" of wrestling has become three hours of anger, deception, sexual dominance, and violent acts with chairs. The one thing that has always eluded me with the newest generation of wrestlers - Goldberg, Sting, Mankind, and The Rock - is the human element that drew me into the action so well as a kid. But Ready to Rumble helped remind me of the glory days I once had, sitting before the 13-inch RCA with the bottom knob broken off, watching my heroes triumph over the adversities of life's travels.
The film follow two losers, played by Scott Caan and David Arquette, who run a septic truck business for the local town of Lusk, Wyoming. Their idol is Jimmy King (Oliver Platt), grand champion belt holder of the WCW Federation, who proclaims "I WILL RULE YOU!" after every victory. Caan and Arquette attend a WCW bout and, in horror, watch their idol fall from grace by turncoat WCW wrestlers. Jimmy King is beaten to a bloody pulp and a fellow wrestler, Diamond Dallas Page, takes the belt from the fallen king. After the show, Caan and Arquette strike out to find their defeated hero and once again place the crown upon the rightful king of the ring.
The strengths of the film lie in its wonderful script. It draws from the familiar lines of many sport films yet retains a strong sense of disbelief that helps carry the emotions of the characters to a heart-pounding end. Arquette and Caan put out wonderful performances of simple men looking to fulfill their dreams without anything standing in their way. The supporting cast of real wrestlers - Goldberg, Sting, Macho Man Randy Savage, and Mr. Perfect - lend their acting chops to help authenticate the action. And director Brian Robbins lends a confident hand at capturing the beauty of the choreographed moves, strongly capturing the feeling of this "circus" masquerading as a professional sport.
But the best thing about the movie is how damn funny it is. The scenes are littered with enough foul humor to embarrass the Farrelly Brothers but are carried by the convictions of the characters and the innocence of common men in the presence of giants. Even Joe Pantoliano, playing a sleazy wrestling promoter responsible for the King's downfall, and Oscar winner Martin Landau, playing an old-school wrestler who trains King, bring wonderful diversity to the characters in the film. Rose McGowan shines as well as a manipulative WCW dancer who likes to wrestle and growl in bed.
Ready to Rumble is a fun, rambunctious film filled with laughs and a great storyline. Take your favorite wrestling fan (or your favorite closeted wrestling fan) and a good time is guaranteed.
Ready or not!