It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
In Hollywood's golden days, they were known as Meet Cutes: Those cute moments at the beginning of a movie where the boy and the girl would meet. You remember. Katharine Hepburn dropping her packages in the revolving door and Spencer Tracy bending over to help her, and their heads bumping. Even the best actors had trouble making it through a Meet Cute with more than a forced smile - the dialog was almost always smarmy - but the movies usually picked up afterwards.
That's not the case, alas, with "The Main Event," which is a Meet Cute from beginning to end, forced smiles, smarmy dialog and all. Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal act so cute, indeed, that I was squirming. There should have been a scene showing them brushing their teeth and vowing to the mirror: "Every day in every way, I'm getting cuter and cuter." This is the first shaggy dog movie that pets itself.
The story: Streisand, an expert in perfume fragrances, discovers that her accountants have bilked her, and she's penniless; all except for a worthless contract she owns on a has-been boxer. She was paying his salary as a tax shelter, but now she needs him to fight again, so she can make some money. The boxer, of course, is Ryan O'Neal, last seen as Streisand's comedy partner in the much better "What's Up, Doc?"
I should explain, I suppose, that "The Main Event" isn't really a boxing movie. That's just what O'Neal does for a living. It's an endless series of harmless sexual innuendoes, centered around Streisand's instant crush on O'Neal. So we get jokes on two levels: (1) The difficulties of being a woman in the male world of professional boxing, and (2) O'Neal's blithe indifference to Streisand's growing passion.