March is the worst month of my sports year because the ultimate Battle of Badassery (The Superbowl) just took place and for the next 2/3rds of the calendar I’m stuck with basketball, baseball and, shudder, golf. The only thing that should have eighteen holes and take that much time out of your day is an orgy.
The Replacements follows washed-up and washed-out former pro quarterback Shane Falco, as he joins forces with an old-school coach (the bastard son of Mr. Miyagi and S.H.I.E.L.D Director Nick Fury) to build a ragtag football team in the wake of a players’ strike. With four games until the Superbowl, these unlikely underdogs must battle prima donna pro players, a city ready to pounce on their every error, and each other in order to make (fake) football history.
The Replacements manages to achieve pitch perfect tone and resonance within its audience. This film has the most sublime blend of humor and drama, action and reaction. The ensemble cast is synergy at its finest (and that’s saying something). Getting me to watch a movie with a large ensemble cast is much like trying to get Kristen Stewart to emote more than one facial expression. My usual complaint against them (that such films gloss over character development) is blown out of the water here. Each individual, from minor to major character, is given exactly the development they need to be entirely, completely, genuine. And there must be a metric fuckton of fairies flying about because I BELIEVE. The Replacements takes itself seriously when needed and is lighthearted in all the right moments. The give and take balances out the film so that each part aligns perfectly to make a whole picture, one that’s eminently watchable.
Though there were good things going for The Replacements, this film is not without flaws. Suspension of disbelief is key to really enjoying this movie, especially for sports fans. Director Howard Deutch (responsible for such efforts as Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful) banks on the audience buying into a few too many unlikely scenarios; such as pro cheerleaders (who get paid enough per game to buy dinner at The Outback) striking along with the pro ballers, thus allowing the highly amusing (yet wholly unlikely) event in which strippers are hired as filler field candy. Even while wading through knee-deep clichés such as coach handing his QB a new asshole for calling an audible, The Replacements kept me entertained by putting a fresh spin on the age-old Underdog theme.
On the field is where this film really shines; off the field the script shoulders the rest of the movie and it drops the ball. A lot. The Replacements relies on formulaic resolutions to contrived conflicts leaving me unimpressed by the lack of originality within the film. This deficit continues all the way to a slipshod finale where several subplots remain unresolved and the last impression we’re left with (taking a page directly from The Breakfast Club) is an insanely “philosophical” voiceover by Coach McGinty. No happy ending here, folks; not even the kind you can pay for. A point in favor of the movie is that, even with scenes that should be eye gougingly moronic (bar fights ending in choreographed lip sync routines) it ends up being delightfully whimsical under Deutch’s direction.
The Replacements gets me through the offseason and does it with humor, heart and stellar action. This film really blows my skirt up and is a guaranteed second-base date movie (especially if your date is me). With its winning cast and engaging performances, almost everything is ultimately forgivable in this effervescent football farce.
Take a Drink: anytime someone has a heart-to-heart or serious conversation on an empty football field. Bonus Shot: if at least one person is standing on the 50 yard line.
Take a Drink: whenever you hear “Scab”, “Footsteps Falco”, “Sugar Bowl” or “Nandeska!”.
Do a Shot: each time someone pukes on the field or a cheerleader can’t spell.
Take a Drink: every time Clifford Franklin misses a catch or Bateman gets crazy eyes and takes someone out charging-rhino-style.
Shotgun a Beer: for the best way to pass time in jail that doesn’t involve dodging shower cowboys.