Body Slam (1987) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for some violence and language
Running Time: 89 min.
Cast: Dirk Benedict, Roddy Piper, Tanya Roberts, Lou Albano, Barry Gordon, Charles Nelson Reilly, Billy Barty, John Fujioka, Sam Fatu, John Astin, Kellie Martin, Chick Hearn, Jay Johnstone, Freddie Blassie (cameo), Ric Flair (cameo), Bruno Sammartino (cameo), Sheik Al Kaissy (cameo),
Director: Hal Needham
Screenplay: Steve Burkow, Shel Lytton
Review published October 20, 2006
Dirk Benedict ("Battlestar Galactica", "The A-Team") stars as Harry Smilac, a two-bit music promoter who finds himself in more debt than he can handle, grasping for whatever he can get, finding it in the world of professional wrestling. He takes over the careers of two pro wrestlers, Quick Rick Roberts (Piper, They Live) and Tonga Tom (Sam Fatu, aka "The Tonga Kid"), but breaking with their previous manager (Albano, Wise Guys) causes them to be shut out of the regular circuit. They start of playing in local dives until their popularity soars, combining with Smilac's rock band, Kick, to form a national phenomenon known as Rock N' Wrestling. However, Smilac won't stop until he gets his boys the world wrestling title championship.
If you're not a hardcore wrestling fan, especially of that of the mid-1980s, when it really soared in popularity, there's virtually no redeeming value in watching this glorification of the "sport". Outside of nostalgia value, this is extremely slim pickings, with laughless slapstick, smarmy attitudes, and forgettable music. The only pleasure, if one can call it one, in watching this film is to see some classic wrestling icons at the prime of their career. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper impresses in his first big screen debut, with Capt. Lou Albano making for a formidable adversary, even if his character is not any different from his WWF counterpart. Cameos by Ric Flair, "Classy" Freddie Blassie, and many others should bring a smile of fond remembrance to nearly anyone who watched these galoots as a young boy in the 1980s.
This would be the final big screen directorial gig for former stunt-coordinator-turned-director Hal Needham, best known for directing Burt Reynolds in several memorable films, including Smokey and the Bandit, Cannonball Run, and Hooper. There's barely a difference between Benedict's bumbling con artist character and the Burt Reynolds characters in Needham's earlier films, except that Dirk doesn't have Burt's charisma or knack for deadpan ad-libs. Tanya Roberts (Sheena, A View to a Kill) provides the eye candy in a completely useless "love interest" character that has no bearing at all to the overall story whatsoever; she's barely in the movie, despite her second billing in the promotional material.
The story is pure fantasy, as it's impossible to believe that two wrestlers and one barely-talented band could flourish into becoming an overnight sensation, gracing the cover of "Rolling Stone", and performing in an event that is the "Super Bowl, World Series, and Academy Awards all rolled into one". The allure of Rock N' Wrestling is proven, but not that much!
If you regularly feast on pro wrestling for your main source of entertainment, I think the bar is sufficiently low enough (if not touching the ground) for Body Slam to clear easily. For everyone else, it's an unfunny, tedious 90 minutes that's about as enjoyable as being on the receiving end of an inverted atomic drop.
©2006 Vince Leo