Ready to Rumble 

With its preordained outcomes of matches and campy theatrics, pro wrestling is a perfect subject for satire. Somehow, Ready to Rumble still manages to miss what should have been an easy target. Thanks to the movie's condescending tone and elephantine execution, one begins to resent the way it ridicules the sport and its fans.

The derision starts early. Gordie (professional doofus David Arquette) and his best friend, Sean (Scott Caan, James' son), never get any respect in their small Wyoming town. Maybe it's what they do for a living: They clean human waste from portable toilets. In addition, they alienate anyone who might think of giving them the time of day, because of their relentless adulation of WCW action and their favorite wrestler, Jimmy King (Oliver Platt). The two even wear matching wristbands that read, "WWKD (What Would King Do?)."

Gordie and Sean naturally are elated when they get to see their hero in a match in Cheyenne. Unfortunately, they, and King himself, are in for a rude awakening. Unbeknownst to his fans, King is not "the people's champion," as he's been advertised. The real Jimmy King has been burning his bridges for 14 years. His excessive drinking and tardiness for matches have angered his fellow wrestlers and the double-dealing league owner, Titus Sinclair (Joe Pantoliano, The Matrix). Weary of his star's ego and unreliability, Sinclair changes the script for his Cheyenne bout without telling King. The surprised champ not only finds himself being pummeled for real, but he also instantly loses his championship belt and winds up being banned from further competition.

After witnessing the drubbing, Gordie and Sean begin a mad quest to seek out King and help him regain his title. Merely finding King is a challenge. Despite his fame, he's been a deadbeat father, barely one step ahead of creditors. The dim lads not only have to figure out how to get him back into fighting shape, but they also have to teach him to behave like a responsible human being.

These proceedings could have been guilty fun. Instead, there is only guilt. Writer Steven Brill (The Mighty Ducks) and director Brian Robbins (Varsity Blues) continuously assault viewers with a vulgarity that occasionally makes the actual sport seem chaste. Brill operates under the assumption that the difference between children's and adult films is that adult films feature countless gags involving raw sewage and men getting kicked in the crotch. Unlike the Farrelly brothers (There's Something About Mary), who temper their disgusting visions with a delightfully warped imagination (their Kingpin hilariously demonstrates the dangers of not flossing enough), Brill and Robbins assume that violence and bodily functions are inherently funny. During one allegedly witty exchange, Sean warns Gordie, "You look like you've got your finger up your ass." He replies, "That's because I do." After awhile, one can anticipate the next crotch kick or the mention of "ass juice."

They also commit the unforgivable sin of squandering a talented cast. Arquette was a riot in the Scream movies, but here he's left to mug his way through. Platt may play an overweight has-been, but he's still a physical miscast. Constantly placing him next to real wrestlers, such as Bill Goldberg and Diamond Dallas Page, only emphasizes how unlikely his participation in pro wrestling is. However, the worst casting mistake is wasting the talents of Oscar-winner Martin Landau as a feisty, sadistic wrestling coach. Landau gets far too little time on screen even though his character is the only interesting one to be found.

Watching Robbins abuse his cast and audience is about like watching Steve "Sting" Borden body-slam Haley Joel Osment. Pro wrestling isn't that mindless; therefore, the filmmakers should pick on a victim their own size. (PG-13) Rating: 1

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