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A comedy based on the 1987 professional football players' strike. Gene Hackman plays the coach of the team, Jack Warden is the owner, Brett Cullen is the All-Pro quarterback that goes on strike and Keanu Reeves is the "scab" who replaces the star QB. Written by
Despite the fact that this film is a totally unoriginal and predictable retread of a dozen `losers to winners' sports stories, it is so hysterically funny that I didn't even care. The story is thin at best. The NFL is having a players strike and scabs are called in to finish the season. Our heroes are low on ability but high on desire and peculiarity. The quarterback, Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves), once had a promising career, but he fell apart psychologically when his team was pummelled in a college bowl game and he was labelled a player that folds in the big game. Of course, while visiting the NFL, Shane falls in love with the head cheerleader (Brooke Langton) who never dates players (except of course this once).
All this is merely a mundane excuse for a raucous and silly comedy that has some sidesplitting moments. To enjoy this film you really need two things. You need to love football and you need to enjoy slapstick, banana peel comedy. I realize that this limits the audience considerably, but for those who qualify (and I am one), this movie is a scream.
Director Howard Deutch (Pretty in Pink, Grumpier Old Men) did a great job on the football sequences. He hired 45 professional football players (Former NFL players, Canadian Football League, etc.) to do the football scenes and sent the actors to a three-week football camp. The action looked real because it was real. The players were told to play and hit the way they normally would. Of course, the plays were choreographed, but they were real football plays.
The comedy was lowbrow, outrageous and crass, with a great deal of physical comedy. The cheerleader scenes were a riot, especially the cheerleader tryouts. The scene where they started pantomiming sex acts to distract the opposing team was priceless. There was also sharp-witted football humor that required more than just a passing knowledge of the game.
There isn't much serious that can be said about the acting. Keanu Reeves tried to play an earnest comeback and romantic role amidst all the foolishness and it really didn't fit with the rest of the film. However, he was an excellent athlete. He did most of his own on-field shots and looked very believable as the quarterback. Gene Hackman was good when he was making snappy wisecracks, but his inspirational `Hoosiers' imitation was misplaced.
This film really belonged to the supporting actors like Orlando Jones (Clifford Franklin), Michael Taliferro and Faizon Love (The Jackson Twins), Ace Yonamine (Jumbo Fumiko), Rhys Ifans (Nigel `The Leg' Gruff) and all the cheerleaders who made the comedy work. Jon Favreau gets a special mention as the crazy S.W.A.T. officer turned linebacker who took the wild man role to the next level.
This film won't be fun for everyone, but it will have certain people falling off their chairs. I rated it an 8/10. Subtract two points if you aren't amused by slapstick and boorish behavior, and another two if you aren't a football fan. For the rest of you, be prepared to split a gut.
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