An aimless young man who is scalping tickets, gambling and drinking, agrees to coach a Little League team from the Cabrini Green housing project in Chicago as a condition of getting a loan from a friend.
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
Expected storyline, but completely unexpected hilarity
To work, comedy has to be unexpected. And that is just what makes "The Replacements" work so well. Oh, not that the storyline is unexpected, for from it. But the actual comedy embedded in that plot is often delightfully quirky and quite unusual in this extremely good-natured and entertaining film. The very first scene, for example, takes place in a completely unexpected setting and proceeds in a really odd-ball way.
As it is most times, Keanu Reeves acting is subtle. In this film you have to watch those eyes that are so eloquent when he's discouraged and listen to those little expelled breaths that convey so well (and so humorously) his state of mind when he's near the girl he's finds attractive. It's all there, and more, if you watch closely. Reeves is completely believable as a man who needs a second chance to do something he loves--play football. It's like he's a different person on and off the field--and that's exactly what the movie was trying to convey. The development (redemption is only too slightly strong a word) of Reeves' character is excellently portrayed. That struggle to overcome provides a good solid center around which all the hilarity revolves and becomes funnier in contrast.
Gene Hackman and the rest of this ensemble cast did a great job--everyone has his or her moments. If the movie has a weakness, it's the romance. Not that Brook Langton and Reeves aren't good in the clinches--they have a definite chemistry. But it seems like there should have just been one scene between them with some real substance.
"The Replacements" also succeeds well as a football movie. The great photography and sound; the inventiveness of the script in dreaming up unusual and funny, yet still plausible, game events; and the evident attention to training for and depicting the physical moves, all add up to a movie which sports fans will relish. And yet, the football plays, are presented so clearly that even someone who's not a knowledgeable football fan can understand everything that's happening, even the first time.
Comedy is tough--it's quite an achievement to have folks in the theater laughing for most of two hours. And that's certainly what the audience did when I saw "The Replacements." As well as cheering out loud for the "home team," clapping at the end, and coming out feeling like dancing to "I Will Survive" like they did in the movie. As well as feeling like we can survive and be ourselves--just like those scrappy, eccentric replacements.
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