Friday, August 25, 2006


Directed by Ericson Core
Written by Brad Gann

More feel-good Disney sports for your viewing pleasure. The name of the game is not originality, it's finding some obscure true story to reaffirm the American Dream--you too can play with the big boys, you too can be a somebody, you just gotta have heart.

This story concerns Vince Papale (get it, InVINCible? Mark Wahlberg), a Philadelphia man who in 1976 went to an open tryout led by the new Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) Eagles, who before his arrival suffered an awful 4-win season the year prior. Papale, according to the movie, had been left by his wife, lost one of his jobs, and basically had nothing but his friends and a bartending job and a cruddy furniture-less apartment before the tryout, when he became a local celebrity and defying all odds, made the freaking team through courage and determination and some decent skills. And not only that, found a new girl whom he worked with at the bar named Janet (Elizabeth Banks, who I want to marry, have 5 kids, and retire to the Bahamas with), a one-of-the-guys type hottie who knows football and (for shame!) is a New York gal who dares where Giants jerseys in hostile territory.

OK, so I'm not going to harp on the originality--this is everything you expect and this is what Disney hopes you recognize. It's Rocky just months before Rocky came out--I wonder how Philadelphia compared the two stories when that movie got its release later that year. It's every underdog sports story you've ever seen.

What I will harp on, though, is what I feel the movie gets wrong in certain areas--Papale's story is certainly a heart-warming tale, but when you see that Papale's only function is on special teams, a certain amount of gravity is lost--in one game we see one failure and we're supposed to believe the whole game depended on that; his whole performance was that one play. The next game is his shining moment, but he's pretty much out of the action throughout the game. I'm not demeaning his story or his accomplishment, because it is remarkable, but it makes for some stretches when Papale isn't even in the story--we see random guys getting tackled as the game plods along, just biding its time before it can get to the highlight.

There's other stuff--like Papale is really fast, we learn. And director Ericson Core allows us to see slow motion. And by rule, lots of story issues go unresolved because you can't make this a three hour movie--I would have liked to have seen how players responded to Dick Vermeil, fresh out of the college ranks trying the NFL out for the first time, to see that leadership that would later translate into Super Bowl appearances with the Eagles and then the St. Louis Rams. I would have liked to have seen some fleshing out of the relationship between he and his teammates--yeah, I bet most people hated him because he wasn't one of them, but surely a couple of guys befriended the man.

I thought the real highlight of the movie was showing Papale, a new Eagle, going back to play a game in the rain and the mud with his buddies, showing that he just had a passion for playing--it's what elevated the movie from merely run-of-the-mill to at the very least, worth a watch if it's on TV someday.


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