Vulgarity is a relative term. Many would consider it high praise to describe a comedy set in the shock-theater burlesque world of pro wrestling as any of the following things: crude, rude, cartoonish, bombastic, bone-crunching, eardrum-crunching, knowingly preposterous. Ready to Rumble qualifies in every category, yet the movie fails to rise to the true hyperbolic vulgarity on which wrestling fans feed. It’s just moronic and insulting.
What, for instance, were the geniuses behind this movie thinking when they cast Oliver Platt as Jimmy King, the undefeated hero of WCW Monday Nitro? Doughy and harmless, with tiny eyes that squint in neurotic misery, Platt looks like he should be playing the Cowardly Lion, not a mad-dog wrestler. It’s not just that he’s too small; his ringside insults lack charisma and power, especially in a movie that features appearances by such WCW stars as Bill Goldberg, Sting, and Disco Inferno. Early on, Jimmy is set up for defeat by his turncoat boss (Joe Pantoliano). After getting ambushed in the ring, he slinks away into humiliated anonymity, and it’s up to Gordie (David Arquette) and Sean (Scott Caan), a couple of losers who drive a septic-tank truck, to snap their idol out of his funk and return him to glory.
”Ready to Rumble” is the sort of movie that takes a dozen raw-sewage jokes to establish that its heroes are, indeed, butt-heads. Actually, we could have figured that out from one glance at David Arquette, with his slack-jawed, ”look ma I’m in a movie” smarminess. Neither Arquette nor Caan puts enough spin on their characters; they’re straight-guy idiots. The movie does, at least, work up some pummeling acrobatic excitement during its final bout, when Jimmy attempts to regain his crown. Then again, satirizing the gladiatorial freak show that is pro wrestling – a satire to begin with – may be a limited proposition. It just makes you want to flip on the tube to see the real (fake) thing.