Plot: Iris (Vicki Frederick) and Molly (Laurene Landon) are the California Dolls, one of the hottest, most popular tag teams in all of professional wrestling, but they have a long road ahead to the top. The duo is managed by Harry (Peter Falk), a cantankerous chap who might be cheap, but fights for the Dolls and is determined to make sure they’re given a championship match. But until that big break, the paydays are sparse and the Dolls have to take what work comes along, even if it means a wild, no holds barred mud wrestling match or two. As the girls dominate inside the ring, Harry curses the refs, the corrupt promoters, and even strangers at times, all while making sure he gets a piece of the pie one way or another. Can the California Dolls ever get the title shot they deserve and if so, can even they topple the long reigning champions?
Entertainment Value: This is a wild one, with a crazed performance from Falk and a sincere, affectionate treatment of the pro wrestling world that treats it like a true sport, rather than just spectacle. Now the business is wide open about being entertainment, but to see it conveyed as a traditional sport adds a certain charm to All the Marbles, with the 80s vibes as a bonus. The tone is comedic, with some light drama around the politics the ladies have to contend with, but it isn’t all out slapstick, just colorful and brisk, with some memorable performances. The wrestling world isn’t just a backdrop either, as the movie is rarely not knee deep in the politics or in-ring action, with several extended matches shown, including a long finale. I know some dislike how much time is devoted to the wrestling, but I think it makes sense and is fun to watch, though I do agree the final contest is a little drawn out. But it also makes for an epic send off for the California Dolls, so again, I can see why the approach was used. Peter Falk is immense fun here, in a role that lets him unleash his inner asshole quite often, while Laurene Landon has her first lead role and of course, Burt Young is a sleazeball as usual. I think the cast was well chosen and everyone shows up to work, so the colorful characters are brought to life in grand fashion. So if you like 80s cinema, pro wrestling, or Peter Falk harassing people, you won’t want to miss All the Marbles.
There’s some light nakedness in this one, as we have a few topless scenes, including an awkward shower cry session and of course, some shirts are ripped off during the wild mud wrestling match. The film has a lot of sex talk and innuendo, including Peter Falk’s insatiable libido, but not a lot of actual sexual content or naked flesh. This is a movie based in the pro wrestling world, so the ladies are roughed up and knocked around, but the violence is limited to the squared circle. Although Falk does slap one of his charges around in one scene, only to have her turn the tables and return the favor with a solid slap of her own. So no real blood to speak of, just some pro wrestling based action that unfolds fairly often. The dialogue is a lot of fun in All the Marbles, thanks to the colorful characters that populate the movie and the cast involved, as they make the most of the sharp lines. There’s a lot of dysfunction and aggression laced in the material, most of which is quite entertaining to watch, especially whenever Falk is at the center of the exchanges. In the final match, he badmouths the referee constantly and it is nothing short of hilarious. But his costars steal scenes as well, with Landon and Vicki Frederick in fine form, Burt Young reveling in another shady role, and even the actors in smaller parts seem to embrace the dysfunction. The craziness scale is on the lower end, but there are some noble efforts at work here, between Falk’s outlandish performance and the general dysfunction throughout.
Overall Insanity: 3/10