Flying Squirrel Boxing Productions
The KO Picture Show
Presents. . .
The Main Event (1979)

"Yentyl laces up the gloves with, not surprisingly, very little comedic effect.
Can I get an "Oy Vey"?!"

I have to admit that Barbra Streisand is an acquired taste. There's a lot to get past in order to get to the loving of Babs. Her politics jump out at many, but I'm able to dismiss that easily enough. Short of an actor proclaiming they're a Nazi, I really could care less about which lever they pull in the voting booth. Next is her singing voice. Music is a subjective thing, and no one is unilaterally loved across all demographics. I will say that her music is probably my least favorite aspect of her career (although I do get a little farklempt when I hear "People" or "You Don't Bring Me Flowers"). But I think the biggest hurdle is, unfortunately, a superficial one. Do you find her attractive? Is she physically appealing to you and, by extension for some, appealing to you as an actress. I find her to be both an excellent actress as well as an attractive woman. There's something in those eyes that sparkles. And I find her genuinely funny, in a way that I find obnoxious in others. The word "Moxy" was invented for her, while so many others just come off as psuedo-sassy.

So, I had myself a little "Babs mini-marathon" this weekend. I admit it. I'm a fan. You got a problem with that? Huh?! I started out with an older, "James Brolin-era" Streisand in the comedy "Meet the Fockers". She was a bright spot in what was an otherwise bland sequel. I followed this up with a younger, dare I say, sexy, "post-Elliot Gould" Barbra in this week's movie, "The Main Event".

Streisand plays a successful perfume manufacturer named Hillary Kramer. She goes from riches to rags when her crooked accountant up and leaves with almost all of her money one day. She's left in financial ruin while he heads off to South America with all of her dough. As she sifts through the rubble she comes to find out that she owns the contract of a boxer named Eddie 'Kid Natural' Scanlon (O'Neill). She seeks out the Kid at the local gym, but soon finds out that the accountant was just using the contract as a tax write-off, and that Scanlon has absolutely NO interest in getting back into the ring. Hillary seems willing to accept this at first, but quickly becomes desperate and has to force the extremely reluctant Kid Natural to fulfill his contractual obligation and get back into the ring.

I have to say, I am NOT a fan of Ryan O'Neill. He's far too animated and hammy for me to take most times. Even in movies that I enjoy, like "Paper Moon", I find his constant yelling unnatural and rarely funny. It's like listening to someone do a really bad imitation of Edward G. Robinson. On top of this, my fiancÚ read his daughter Tatum's autobiography and was constantly telling me all of these demonizing stories about him, so I think I hold his shortcomings as a father, real or imagined by Tatum, against him subconsciously (although, now that I've written it down, I guess I'd have to say I'm doing it consciously). Fair? Not one bit; I can't palliate it. But something odd happened during the course of this movie.
At the beginning my Streisand/O'Neill prejudices kicked in. I found myself laughing at her and hating him. But as the movie progressed, I have to say that Hillary's "moxy" started to strain a bit, and I found the "fish out of water" aspect of the story kind of limp. Yes, I understand that Hillary is completely ignorant of boxing rules and etiquette and is used to being pampered, but does she have to announce it at every turn?! You just KNEW she was going to show up at the gym in a skimpy little boxing outfit and screw up the Kid's sparring session, didn't ya? You just KNEW that on the night of his first fight, she was gonna do something goofy and make him lose, right? In contrast, instead of just putting his ranting mechanism in overdrive, O'Neill plays Eddie against type and actually becomes resigned to the fact that this crazy woman will remain his manager until he fulfills his obligation to her, a rare turning of the other cheek for Ryan. It was actually a pleasant surprise to see him back away from the non-stop bickering that almost always proceeds the "falling for each other" moment that's inevitable in romantic comedies.

Whitman Mayo ('Grady' from Sanford & Son), Patti D'Arbanville, and Paul Sand are given the nearly anonymous job of fleshing out the cast, playing the trainer, the Kid's girlfriend, and Hillary's nebbish ex-husband/lawyer, respectively. I'd like to say it's the collective star power of Streisand and O'Neill rendering them ineffectual, but the truth is that they're really not given very much to do.


The Fightin' - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

I really have to say that Ryan O'Neill was a pleasant surprise when it came to the boxing action. He showed up in shape and, despite the pretty face, he was believable as a fighter. In fact, the story goes that he was considered for the role of Rocky Balboa before Stallone sold the film rights to his script under the condition that he play the title role. O'Neill has some Golden Gloves experience, and it showed in his scenes during training and during the fights. But, for the most part, the fights were played for comic effect. The actual fisticuffs were just filler for the fairly laugh-less "between round antics" of The Kid and Hillary. Whitman Mayo was even more ineffectual as the trainer. Now that I'm thinking back to it, I don't think his character did much more than yell from the corner during fights. During the actual "training", the "trainer" was nowhere to be found. But, it must again be noted, the training sequences were mostly just set-ups for Streisand and O'Neill to rub each other the wrong way. It's hilarious because they're so different, ya see?! Sigh <rubbing my temples>. . . . .


Overall Rating - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4

What we have here is a romantic comedy that falls short on both fronts. The romance never really develops and the ending is just about the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen (don't worry, I won't give it away). And while Streisand's ignorance of the rules of boxing starts out as innocent and cute, it soon becomes grating and humorless. Bab's also contributed a couple of songs to the soundtrack, but they were nothing memorable. This film is strictly for Streisand completists, and you know who you are! I'll just fire up "Funny Girl" one more time instead. . .


Rob Tillisch
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Starring: Barbra Streisand,
Ryan O'Neill
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