|THE REPLACEMENTS (2000)|
|"I wish I could say something classy and inspirational, but that just wouldn't be our style."|
|Time: 118 mins.|
Since I generally loathe football, I never go to see movies with that as the key subject. However, I recently had the opportunity to see this film for free (on an airplane) and since I needed to kill time, I figured what the hell. I can take or leave Keanu, who can ruin a movie, in the case of DRACULA, or be just fine, like in THE MATRIX. He's no Johnny Depp, but he's not bad to look at, so it's not always a bad thing to have him be a films star. Plus I just love Gene Hackman. He could read the phone book and I'd find it interesting. It's not everyday you find an actor who can be successful at both comic and dramatic roles. The only reason ENEMY OF THE STATE is at all bearable is because of Hackman's presence. This film works mainly due to casting and a serviceable script that doesn't try to be something that it's not. It's a fairly simple story and the screenwriting does exactly what it's supposed to do gets you to like and root for these players who will never get another chance like this.
The plot is pretty simple. The football players go on strike 4 games from the end of the regular season. The teams' owner, who has a chance to get into the playoffs, something the team hasn't accomplished in years, decides to hire a temporary coach and replacement players to finish the season and hopefully win the 3 out of 4 games needed to make the cutoff. Hackman plays Jimmy McGinty, a well-respected coach who was forced out of the game due to a disagreement between himself and the star quarterback. He lost. He agrees to coach for the rest of the season, but only if he gets no interference from management. Mr. O'Neill could care less what he does as long as the team wins. Jimmy assembles his team of players who had potential, but never made it or couldn't hack it in the pros for various reasons. They may be a team of misfits, convicts and losers, but they have a player who could have gone all the way, quarterback Shane Falco (Reeves), who's infamous for leading his college team to the worst Sugar Bowl loss ever. With the right guidance and a truckful of luck, the team actually manages to make a successful run at the playoff berth.
Their first game starts horribly, but they manage to put enough plays together to not fully embarrass themselves. Not every team is utilizing replacement players, so they are going up against real players who are willing and able to hurt them terribly. Though the fans are happy to see anybody playing and are highly amused by the unusual plays and tactics of their "new" team, the striking players are extremely displeased and they make their anger very apparent. Shane is forced to take a leadership role, as the teams' success is quite literally in his hands. Of course, since they're only there for a few weeks, he puts his hands to good use with a little romance with the head cheerleader. Annabelle swears that she doesn't date football players, especially quarterbacks, but she can't refuse the advances of Shane. Besides, he clearly needs her help she's a football expert and he's not going to be a player forever, no matter how well he does. In the end, he pulls the team together, playing a game with heart and soul none of them will ever forget.
In the case of THE REPLACEMENTS, you get what you pay for. This is an enjoyable comedy with a touch of romance that goes down like an American beer it's fun and refreshing, but nothing you'll remember the minute the film is over. It's designed to be light and frothy with just a bit of naughtiness the strippers turned cheerleaders are hysterically and indecently sexy to break up the football. Actually, the game sequences were very exciting and entertaining, which believe me is something I hate to admit. Of course, there was an element of humor to the proceedings that you don't normally see in the NFL. Plus, they didn't last very long. I'd certainly watch more NFL game if it was more like this. The characters took the game very seriously, but they just weren't very good, so they had to improvise. The love story aspect was cute, but not really necessary. I guess they thought they needed something to entice women to buy a ticket. Personally, I find Keanu good eye candy, but he's definitely not permanent material. I guess a little sweet loving never really hurts.
The supporting cast plays to type, but they make the most of what little they have to do. Jon Favreau has some funny moments as a cop with a killer instinct on the field, but his talent is pretty much wasted here. No one else really stands out all that much, which is fine since the main thread of the story focuses on Falco's redemption as a player who was worth his hype. Hackman is great as the understanding but gruff coach. Though this is a role he could have done in his sleep. There's nothing really new or original here, but then again there doesn't really need to be. Most football games look alike to me and yet, every week people are glued to their screen waiting to see what happens next. I can tell you the ball will get thrown, kicked, caught, fumbled, stolen and spiked. THE REPLACEMENTS is like an average Sunday game. In this case, the home team wins, but you'll wish the game was better.