By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
4-Word Review: Struggling actor becomes wrestler.
Andy Schmidt (Henry Winkler) is a college student with a driving ambition of becoming a star. He is constantly doing things to be the center of attention including being a scene stealer in every stage play that he is in even if his role is minor. He meets and falls in love with Mary (Kim Darby) and the two move to New York, but find that life in the big city can be difficult especially when Andy is unable to secure any type of acting gig. Then by chance he meets Milton (Herve Villechaize) who is a dwarf wrestler that gets Andy connected to his promotor Milton (Gene Saks). Milton thinks Andy’s need for attention and flamboyance would be perfect for the theatrics of the wrestling world and although he is initially reluctant eventually starts to love it even when his wife hates it and threatens to leave him unless he quits.
Winkler’s performance is the film’s driving force and outside of his signature role as The Fonz this has to be his best work. I enjoyed the variety of characters that he plays in the ring, but the character himself tends to be quite obnoxious and borders on being a complete turn-off especially at the beginning. It is also hard to believe that anyone could fall in love with someone who is so extremely narcissistic and self-centered making the whole romance angle seem forced. The role also, during the scenes when he is in the ring and wearing very little, shows just how short and puny Winkler really is.
The script by Steve Gordon, who later went onto to pen and direct the Dudley Moore version of Arthur, seems reluctant to dive completely into the wrestling angle even though these scenes are by far the most interesting and funniest and when it gets away from the ring its predictable and contrived. I also couldn’t understand how they were able to maintain an apartment as small as it was when Andy was unable to get any type of job or income and the idea that they had unprotected sex and brought in an infant into the world when they could barely support themselves seemed utterly ludicrous. The film’s setting is during the 50’s, but it never comes full circle into the 70’s making it seem incomplete and the characters not as evolved as they could’ve been.
Darby does well in her part and works as a nice anchor to Winkler’s unbridled zaniness. I also really liked Polly Holliday best known for her role as Flo on the long running TV-series ‘Alice’ as Darby’s uptight mother who finally lets loose at the very end while watching Andy in a wrestling match. Saks has a lot of funny lines especially the running joke dealing with his ‘weird’ son, but his glasses that seem glued to his forehead eventually became annoying to look at.
On the negative side you also have rotund actor Richard Karron who’s excessively hairy, flabby physique, which gets shown in all of its unglorious splendor during one particular match may possibly be one of the grossest sights ever put on celluloid. The casting of the infant is another issue as when he is shown in the hospital he has a full head of blonde hair and then in all the subsequent scenes he has dark black hair.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Released: February 3, 1978
Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes
Director: Carl Reiner
Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video