The intrigue of the WWE, where wrestlers wear gimmicky costumes while tussling, captures a child’s imagination in the amiable Netflix movie “The Main Event.” Sweet-natured Leo (Seth Carr) is an 11-year-old pipsqueak and pro wrestling enthusiast who’s picked on by bigger boys. Escaping his bullies one day, he stumbles into an estate sale where he finds a mysterious wrestling mask that, once donned, imbues him with superhuman strength. In a note of silliness, the magic fabric also stinks of body odor.
Armed with this disguise, Leo becomes a superhero of sorts. Most of the day, he’s a nervous kid with a few friends. But in the mask, he transforms into a smooth-talking strongman who can topple a tree with a karate kick, or turn the charm on with his school crush (Momona Tamada). The mask fulfills a juvenile fantasy of limitless power, and Leo puts it to the test when, with the blessing of his kooky grandma (Tichina Arnold), he enters a pro wrestling competition under the moniker Kid Chaos.
The movie, helmed by the TV comedy director Jay Karas, blends in real elements of the sport. The WWE stars Mike “The Miz” Mizanin and Kofi Kingston play themselves in cameos, and Babatunde Aiyegbusi (a.k.a. Samson) appears as a hulking, nonverbal adversary. The wrestling matches themselves, though, are flamboyantly embellished: During one, an opponent passes gas strongly enough to blast Kid Chaos across the ring.
“The Main Event” is a light comedy that takes the joys of a real WWE match — the escapism, the performance — and gives them a kid-centric spin. Karas balances the movie’s clowning with a human story, while showing empathy for childhood growing pains. Although a subplot concerning Leo’s sulky father (Adam Pally) ends up undercooked, it’s of little concern. The kids are who matter most here, and the rapport among Leo’s group of friends sparkles with sly energy.
The Main Event
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 41 minutes.