Barbra Streisand returned from a three-year screen hiatus to executive-produce, star in, and perform the theme song of the boxing-themed romantic comedy The Main Event. She also hedged her bets by recruiting costar Ryan O’Neal, hoping to recapture the box-office success and onscreen chemistry they enjoyed with 1972’s What’s Up, Doc? Alas, despite slick production values and energetic performances by both leading actors, The Main Event suffers from a bloated running time and a weak storyline, to say nothing of the hideous perm and shrill characterization that Streisand inflicted upon herself. (Some blame must fall to fellow executive producer Jon Peters, the ex-hairdresser who was the diva’s boyfriend at the time, but nobody puts Babsy in a corner.) Except for those who find the notion of Streisand screeching and whining for two hours distasteful, The Main Event is watchable. However, it’s not the least bit memorable or unique.
Streisand plays Hilary Kramer, a perfume-industry executive who falls on hard times when her business manager embezzles her fortune. Hilary’s last remaining asset is the employment contract for Eddie “Kid Natural” Scanlon (O’ Neal), a prizefighter of dubious credentials. Turns out Hilary’s business manager bought the contract as a tax scam, offering Eddie a lavish salary for not fighting. After informing Eddie that he can reimburse her or face criminal charges for his participation in the tax-evasion scheme, Hilary pushes Eddie back into the ring for a series of fights. All the while, the two strike romantic sparks, much to the chagrin of Eddie’s vulgar girlfriend, Donna (Patti D’Arbanville).
There’s a lot wrong with the script, credited to sitcom pros Gail Parent and Andrew Smith. Beyond the flaccid nature of the banter, one-liners, and slapstick gags, the film lacks a proper villain—which it badly needs—and the arc of the main characters’ relationship is so trite that it’s boring to watch Eddie and Hilary transition from enemies to lovers. Making matters worse, insipid chauvinist-vs.-feminist rhetoric gets shoehorned into the old-fashioned story. Among other complications this creates, it’s tricky to reconcile the feminist material with endless ogling shots of Streisand’s rear end—one of which tellingly appears in tandem with Peters’ producing credit. O’Neal and Streisand both try valiantly to energize limp dialogue, and they look fantastic (notwithstanding that damn perm). Is that enough to merit slogging through The Main Event? That depends on viewers’ interest in the actors, since The Main Event offers little more than pure star power.
The Main Event: FUNKY