The Replacements review by Tom Blain

Its Waterboy bad

All one would hope for in a movie like The Replacements is a couple unexpected laughs. Maybe a surprise or two would be nice, I mean after all you are shelling out $4.00 rental after tax. When you see the previews you can tell right away that it will be a movie about some rag-tag players who go from nobodies to somebodie in the span of 90 movie minutes. You can expect that in the last five minutes they will celebrate a most unlikely victory of David-vs-Goliath proportions. Along the way one or two laughs, maybe a few camera shots and a reason to cheer would do the trick. Sorry this isnt your night if you are renting The Replacements.

The professional football season is in full swing, when all of a sudden the players go on strike. The pro players protest arrogantly $5 million a year aint enough to pay my bills. I own a Ferrari. So head coach McGinty (Gene Hackman) takes on the challenge of assembling troops of his choice. He salivates at the opportunity to give willing players a chance to compete and play as a team. So he throws together a group of underdog nobodies. The QB STEVE Falco (Keanu Reeves) has all the tools but cant get over his Sugar Bowl disaster from years ago (and the script repeats this knowledge ad nauseum). The WR (Orlando Jones) is fast, but has butter fingers, just like every wide receiver in these types of movies. And of course if you need an offensive lineman, why not pick up a sumo wrestler or a Samoan? Sumo it is!

The team starts out as a group of dysfunctional individuals. The guys who were cons cant stand the guys that were cops. The fat guys dont like the other fat guys. Nobody likes the kicker. Eventually Falco emerges as their cardboard personality leader, and the team rallies. Differences are put aside and they find ways to win games, even if its an ugly win. The true challenge comes when one teams players cross the picket line, and the lovable losers are tasked with playing the overwhelming favorites. You can no doubt predict the unlikely outcome.

Everybody here is a winner with the exception of the audience. Not only is the team 2nd hand, but so is everything else about the production. The story is an obvious retread of just about every other sports movie you have seen. Sometimes you can get away with unoriginality story if you provide something else. As noted earlier, its expected in a movie like this. But there is also very little style in this movie. The on-field scenes dont even hold a candle to Any Given Sunday. Not that this is a fair comparison (one is a comedy, one is a drama directed by a great director), but you would think that with the bar raised years earlier, the director would have taken a few notes from Oliver Stone. The action scenes dont seem to have progressed past The Longest Yard from 30 years earlier. Even a scene where Falco unloads a bullet pass on the blitzing middle is stolen from The Longest Yard but done so in a G-rated way.

The actors (with the exception of the legendary Gene Hackman and maybe Jon Faverau) might as well have been replacements for real actors. Reeves delivers his lines with his signature machine like emotion. His portrayal as the on-the-field leader leaves me asking the question,What is there about his character that would make me want to risk my body on the field? He never even won the games he did win convincingly. There are several other nobodies who play the classic one-trait filler characters. The chain smoking Welch kicker. The two guards who carry live handguns. The middle linebacker whos engine constantly runs in the red. These types of characters are a staple in the sports-underdog movie but usually one or two of them are given a few funny jokes to work with. The best I got was a kick in the nutts once or twice. Cmon thats like punting on 3rd down fellas.

The real minus of this film is not just the insertion of John Madden and Pat Summerall into the movie. Its not even seeing them on screen. Its seeing and hearing them every time there is a game played. Thats about 5 times in the movie including the final agonizing act where they lead you down predictable lane. And then, the worst Madden and Summerall were commentating over the sound track calling the romantic first kiss between Falco and his cheerleader interest. Hes gonna go for it, Pat! Getting John Madden on Monday Night Football is already too much. Sticking his mutated-cow face constantly in a movie is last resort desperation.

When it comes down to it, there are about 100 other little things that irritated me about this movie. Things like the not using real NFL team names or even the colors of those teams. Or like the real pro players who are on strike, walking around like a gang from Westside Story ready to mess with the scabs. Cmon if Peyton Manning goes on strike, I guarantee he isnt getting in anyones grill. All these things (along with no good jokes) left a bad taste in my mouth. The Replacements gets points for Gene Hackman and stripper cheerleaders, but everything else drags it back down. Avoid.




2 out of 10 Jackasses
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