A story of second chances, redemption, and a humorous look at the business of football. There were some mixed reviews about the film, but overall, it seems that it was received well. The film grossed nearly forty-five million dollars in the United States. There are still some that may have not liked this film. Some people may have loved it. And it may have not been an Oscar winning, stellar film but it had a story, some good characters and amusing moments.

Reliving NFL history

 So, was the film a true depiction of the 1987 football strike? Probably not, but it made for some good entertainment. The great, or not so great, football strike in 1987, where free agency seemed to be the spark that raged the fire, was the basis for the film. In the article, “The 1987 Football Strike” by Glen Levy, it states that the players called a strike after the second game of that season. Instead of resolving the issue, however, NFL owners cancelled the games in the third week of the season and began putting together replacement teams. For three weeks, spectators saw the likes of the Los Angeles Shams, Chicago Spare Bears, Seattle Sea Scabs, and others take the field of play.  Rick Reilly wrote in Sports Illustrated that in the first week of these replacement games, it drew “more viewers than the last game of the Detroit-Toronto series for the American League East title.” Very interesting.

It’s interesting to note that there was another strike that preceded this one in 1987 and it lasted nearly two months. The strike occurred in 1982 and after the second game of the season, the strike was called. When it ended, there were some issues still unresolved which lead to the 1987 strike. It’s also interesting to note that these two football strikes, 1987 and 1982, were numbers four and seven, respectively, on a list of the top ten strikes in sports, according to Time magazine. So, football is not the only sport that has had strikes or lockouts, but apparently football is the only sport that has had a film based on a strike or lockout, in recent years anyway.

The film did show a good contrast between the replacement players and the real players. And it showed how the real players and community reacted to the replacement players. After they began winning, the replacements were fully supported by the community.

Entertaining Characters

The characters were interesting and varied. There is a speedy wide receiver, Clifford Franklin (played by Orlando Jones), who can’t catch the ball; a troubled, chain-smoking soccer player, Nigel Gruff (played Rhys Ifans); a former S.W.A.T. team member, Daniel Bateman (played by Jon Favreau); a deaf tight end, Brian Murphy (played by David Denman); and Shane Falco (played by Keanu Reeves), a college quarterback who gave up football after a loss in a big game in the Sugar Bowl. There were other characters that rounded out the ensemble to make for an entertaining film.

Shane Falco showed a dramatic contrast within himself. He does not yet realize his full potential and has been given a second chance to prove to himself what he can be. Personally, I can’t say that I’m a big fan of Keanu Reeves. He’s not a bad actor and his performance was adequate for the film. But there’s something about his vocal characterizations that leave something to be desired. However, that’s another story for another time.

Coach McGinty (played by Gene Hackman) tells Shane early in the film, “I look at you and see two men. The man you are and the man you ought to be, some day those two will meet. Should make for a hell of a football player.” Through the continued mentoring from Coach McGinty, Falco becomes the man he ought to be. I view this relationship as a father-son relationship where an element of humanism is shown.

I liked Danny Bateman, played wonderfully by Favreau. It appeared that he had an almost warrior-like quality, be also a softer, more congenial, quality as well. The aggressiveness he shows on the field is contrasted by the other side of his personality and make for an interesting and entertaining character.

Legendary sports broadcasters Pat Summerall and John Madden, playing themselves, calling the game action sequences, were a nice addition to the film. It added a bit of realism to the film.

Grid Iron Humor

 This was not a dramatic retelling of that 1987 strike. It was written as a comedy. Vince McKewin wrote the film and blended great football sequences with comedy and a little romance. Some of the scenes appeared as realistic, and then there seems there were unrealistic scenes and bits, like the how quickly a character gets from one place to another, how quickly a play was called and started between dialogue, or how there were replacement cheerleaders too. Why would there be a need to replace a few cheerleaders towards the end of the season? That just seems kind of odd to me. But then, the cheerleaders wouldn’t be replaced by strippers and exotic dancers, which added to the humor. All in all, the film had a story and good characters.

One humorous bit in the film was when Falco met Annabelle Farrell (played by Brook Langton), the head cheerleader and becomes Falco’s love interest, after the first day of practice. She gave him a ride home and was speeding through the streets of Washington D.C. and weaving in and out of traffic. The game sequences provided much of the humor with players throwing up on the field during a game, the replacement cheerleaders supplying some erotic dances for the fans and disrupting an opposing teams’ offense, Bateman’s antics on the field, a humorous bar fight between the replacement players and the picketing players, and Falco and company get put in jail and dance to Gloria Gaynor’s hit “I Will Survive,” among others.

The Story Theme

In the final game sequence of the film, Falco tells his guys in the huddle “pain heals, chicks dig scars. Glory – lasts forever.” This energized the players and finally gave the replacement players the drive to win the game. They won three out of four remaining games and put the team into the playoffs. They all got a chance to be part of something great. For a moment, they had their shot to shine.

At the end of the film Coach McGinty says, “Every athlete dreams of a second chance. These men lived it.” That seemed to be what I took the overall theme to be. Most of these characters had played some football somewhere, and for some of these characters playing football is like getting a second chance in life.

Resources

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1066627/index.htm. Accessed 11/17/11.

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2057092_2057090_2057174,00.html. Accessed 11/16/11

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2057092_2057090_2057206,00.html. 11/16/11

Deutch, Howard. The Replacements. Produced by Dylan Sellers and directed by Howard Deutch. 135 minutes. Warner Brothers, 2000. DVD

 

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