Movie Magazine International

The Replacements

USA - 2000

Movie Review By Casey McCabe

Okay. Now what was that sports comedy that featured the ragtag team? You know, with that locker room of quirky characters? The one where they start off fighting with each other, but then come together as a team just in time to claim their moment of glory?

Wait. I remember. That's EVERY sports comedy in the history of the movies. And the new film "The Replacements" is no different. But the reason they keep making this movie over and over is because if done even competently, it can make you feel pretty good. Indeed "The Replacements" has enough of that thing coaches call "heart" and that comedians call "comedy" to keep you in your seat.

As ragtags go, this one is surprisingly credible. The film takes its lead from the real life 1987 NFL players strike when owners really did have to throw teams together from spare parts, virtually overnight. In this context, Shane Falco, a former college star who flamed out in the Sugar Bowl and a one year pro career, looks pretty good. And a little more so since he's played by Keanu Reeves. Unlike the arrogant All Pro he's replacing, Falco is humble to a fault. He lives on a boat and apparently runs his own barnacle scraping business. Like his new teammates — the sumo wrestler, the former SWAT team commando, the convict, the rappers, the bricklayers and hardware salesmen — Falco knows he's tainted goods coming back to football, not to mention a picket line scab. But then, this is football. The ultimate boys game. And that second chance, no matter how convoluted, is too good to pass up.

The film makes a valiant attempt not to overplay its hand. The stands are not full, the Super Bowl is left on the horizon, and careers are not magically resurrected. It's about a fleeting moment in a not especially bright sun. And that's the clumsy charm of The Replacements. An otherwise lightweight, second string feature, it's given heft by Gene Hackman as the coach with an eye for rough gems…a role he could, and actually might be playing in his sleep. By Jack Warden as the team owner archetype, and in a coup for any film looking for football credibility, by having John Madden and Pat Summeral doing the game day announcing and convenient exposition.

I can't imagine I'd ruin the suspense by revealing that Keanu Reeves wins the game and the cheerleader. The surprise is catching yourself rooting for every foregone conclusion. I'll chalk "The Replacements" up as one of this season's guilty little pleasures.

© 2000 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 08/00

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