Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Main Event

Year 8, Day 243 - 8/30/16 - Movie #2,438 

BEFORE: This film was originally scheduled for a couple of weeks ago, while the Olympics was still going on.  (They still have boxing at the Olympics, right?)  But then my plans changed because I had to start looking at the big picture for the rest of the year and find a path to my Christmas movies, which I have now done.  So the film's back on the books - and just at the right time, too.

Because who's suddenly back in the news?  Barbra Streisand, who's got a new duets album out.  And also there was a news item about Apple's iPhone assistant, Siri, now being able to correctly pronounce her name (umm, how was it pronouncing it before?).  On top of all that, there's a new boxing film being released, "Hands of Stone".  So, it would seem that there's a sudden confluence of relevance for both Barbra and boxing.  Lucky me.  

Ryan O'Neal carries over again from "Paper Moon".  

FOLLOW-UP TO: "The Champ"  (Movie #2,351)

THE PLOT:  A successful Perfume magnate finds out that her accountant has robbed her blind and left for South America. Going through all of her remaining assets she finds a boxer, purchased as a tax write off, but she decides to take Kid Natural into the ring and use him as her key to riches.

AFTER: I've come to accept that I may never be done with boxing films - whenever I cross one off, it seems there's always a new one, like "Creed" or "Southpaw" that needs to be added to my list.  I did a whole chain of them last year, with "Grudge Match" and "Play It to the Bone" and "Undisputed" and "Against the Ropes", and now I regret calling that chain "Boxing's Final Round", because it wasn't.  But the thing about recent boxing films, probably from "Raging Bull" and "Rocky" right up to "Ali" and "Southpaw", is that they all take the sport so seriously.  OK, except for "Grudge Match" maybe.  

But it wasn't always so.  I watched "Buck Privates" recently, and Abbott & Costello made light of it, and back in the day the Three Stooges and Harold Lloyd all had their comic turns in the ring.  And back in the 1970's, they tried mixing boxing, comedy, disco music and umm, aerobics into "The Main Event".  There's even foreshadowing of economic scandals like Bernie Madoff's, as an accountant takes off with a bunch of his rich client's money, leaving a rich perfume executive with no assets.  (See, she's an expert on perfume because she has a large nose, get it?  That's what passed for visual comedy in the 1970's, before subtlety was invented.)  

But she still has a boxer under contract, because I guess back in those days if you had more money than you needed, you sponsored athletes.  Or maybe the boxer was in on the scheme with the accountant, because he apparently got a monthly salary to not fight, but instead sit around the gym all day.  Who said there was an unemployment problem?  Getting paid to not work seems like a great deal.  

But our heroine takes a crash course in boxing technique, and in nagging her boxer from the sidelines as he tentatively steps back into the ring.  Much hilarity ensues when she works as a cornerman, and doesn't know when to put the stool down, when to bring the spit-bucket, etc.  Our strong feminist executive suddenly turns all nebbishy when she realizes she's in over her head.  I wonder why Woody Allen never played an inept boxing trainer - I guess Streisand beat him to it.  But some of her schtick, like not getting any food at the training camp, certainly hearkens back to classic slapstick, almost like Chaplin in "The Gold Rush".  

But it turns out that after spending time together, a sort of boss/employee love/hate thing starts to develop, and since he can't really punch her, though he'd really like to, he channels his aggression into the fight, and starts knocking them down.  The boxing commissioner notices their tension (and I swear, I thought he was going to make them box each other, creating the scene on the poster...) and agrees to set up a rematch with Kid Natural's old opponent, from "The Match That Never Was".  OK, so that's not as catchy as "The Rumble in the Jungle" or "The Thrilla in Manila" but I guess you take what you can get.  

But ugh, some screenwriter was really enamored of beverages.  It feels like every time someone goes over to someone else's house or apartment, it's all, "Would you like a beer?  No, how about some water?  Maybe a soda?"  At one point, one character says, "Would you like some tea?  No?  Well, that's good because I don't have any tea."  Umm, real people just don't talk like this.  I know for sure that if I didn't have any tea in the cupboard, I sure wouldn't offer some to a guest.  It just feels like this was the fallback conversation for a writer whenever he didn't know what the characters should talk about.

And why do Ryan O'Neal's characters always seem to owe somebody money?  In "Paper Moon" he owed little Addie $200, and she wouldn't stop demanding it.  In this film he owes Barbra's character $61,311.00 and she won't let him forget it either. 

The poster tagline reads "A Glove Story", which spoofs Ryan O'Neal's earlier film, "Love Story" - and they do work in a romance, too, in addition to everything else.  Which reminds me, I've got to start keeping an eye out for romance-based material, if I'm going to keep this thing going for another year.  I cleaned out all the romantic films on the list in February, except for a few that I watched during the Burt Reynolds chain.  I don't know if I'll be able to slap something together for February 2017 at this rate. 

Also starring Barbra Streisand (last seen in "The Guilt Trip"), Paul Sand, Whitman Mayo, Patti D'Arbanville (last seen in "Perfect Stranger"), James Gregory (last seen in "The Manchurian Candidate"), John Reilly (last seen in "The Great Waldo Pepper"), Tim Rossovich (last seen in "Nice Dreams"), Richard Lawson, Chu Chu Malave, Earl Boen, with cameos from Ernie Hudson (last seen in "Congo"), Len Lesser (last seen in "Lust for Life"), Brent Musberger (last heard in "Planes: Fire & Rescue").

RATING: 4 out of 10 bunk beds

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