Monday, December 12, 2011

Ten Statements About....THE REPLACEMENTS (2000)

"And when I grow up, I's gon' be a football player!"
"Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory lasts forever."

1) Keanu Reeves, quarterback. Yep. That's like me making a football movie now and casting Justin Beiber.

2) But then, I shouldn't be surprised, as this is one of those films where there are two or three 'characters' and a whole slew of types. This movie is technically all about Reeves' Shane Falco and Gene Hackman's Jimmy McGinty. Everyone else in the film, from the cheerleader romantic interest to the team owner right on down to the kicker is a broad stereotype given only the lightest strokes to convince us they're flesh and blood and not artifice and laziness.

3) The one who makes the best of his underwritten role is Orlando Jones' Clifford Franklin--but that's mainly because Jones is able to infuse the caricature he's given (He's a starstruck wide receiver--and he can't catch! Hilarity!) with the same sort of manic energy that made him a standout on Mad TV. He becomes one of the stars of the film not because of the way Franklin is written, but because what he bring to the table is infectious.

"It's not so ten years, you'll be the A-List Director of
Iron Man, and I'll be The Lizard."
4)...and to be fair, there are other actors who try...really overcome their underwritten roles, and there are moments when they succeed--like when Faison Love and Michael Taliferro do the little football dance when they're hired--but most of the time they fail. It's kinda painful seeing decent actors like Troy Winbush and Jon Favreau struggle to make a silk purse with the sow's ears they've been given.

5) The script by Vince McKewin tackles the unenviable task of trying to make scabs crossing a picket line the heroes by overcompensating. Thus, all the striking players are played so broadly evil (especially Brett Cullen's Eddie Martel) that they're unbelievable cartoons.

6) And speaking of Martel, we keep hearing about how he's one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and how he won two Super Bowl Rings...and yet, when we see him play, he's a total incompetent. I have to wonder if that's because they wanted to make Falco look better than he is, or if it's just that Howard Deutch doesn't know shit about football.

7) You know what else this is? This is one of those films where plot developments just happen because they have to happen, which creates strange disconnect like, let's say, Martel jeering Falco about his relationship with Brooke Langton's Annabelle when there's no way he could have known about it, or the way the strike is proclaimed over with no warning halfway through the climatic game, or the way Rhys Ifan's Nigel understands that the appearance of three generic thugs in the stands means he has to throw the game, or...

You get the idea.

8) It is so fascinating watching Howard Deutch trying to film convincing football scenes when it's obvious he doesn't know anything about football--and it's fascinating and funny to realize Deutch was working with an actual football coach as a consultant for those scenes.

Cheerleaders that are strippers--COMEDY GOLD!
9) You know what else this is? This is one of those films that has so little confidence in its audience that it stacks the deck for every major development until said audience drowns in its intentions. Thus, when Falco and Annabelle finally get to acknowledge they want each other, we not only get a scene of them looking at each other longing ending in a deep kiss, we get The Police's 'Every Breath You Take' on the soundtrack and John Madden doing a play-by-play that is supposed to 'ironically' mirror the romantic action. It's this sort of overkill--especially when it comes to how the film utilizes its pop music soundtrack--that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

10) And then there's that weird ending voiceover Hackman gives at the end about the replacement players weren't going to get a sneaker endorsement or anything, but their participation in greatness would stick with them. It seems arbitrary (to be honest, it seems like it was added on after a test screening) and intrusive when the closing montage should have been sufficient to close the book on this film.

(and let's not forget that in the real world, a couple of these players would get signed by the NFL, much as refugees from the XFL and Arena Football found spots with teams)

Overall...This is a prime example of Film-As-Product, something so forced and broad that there's no room for audience insight or interpretation. Every time I watch it, I wonder why I still enjoy it...but I do.

I guess sometimes you want a piece of product as a switch up from all the actual, you know, movies you usually ingest.

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