The Replacements

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film opens with Shane Falco, a former star quarterback at Ohio State University who choked in his final college game and failed to succeed in the pros, doing his job cleaning the bottoms of peoples’ boats. While underwater, he finds a metal trophy football labeled “Shane Falco: All American” and pretends he is playing football again. Meanwhile, the fictional Washington Sentinels are shown playing a game in which commentators John Madden and Pat Summerall mention a players’ strike taking place over salary disputes. As the game winds down, Sentinels quarterback Eddie Martel chooses to slide to the ground instead of scoring the game winning touchdown to avoid getting injured.

Later that day, the owner of the Sentinels decides to hire Jimmy McGinty, the Sentinels’ former coach who was fired after getting into a fight with the team’s star quarterback, to recruit replacement players during the strike and coach the team for the rest of the season. He tells McGinty that all they need is three wins out of their final four games to advance to the playoffs. McGinty tells the owner he’ll only do it if he promises not to interfere with his coaching style. McGinty recruits many different ragtag players, and eventually convinces Falco to come off his boat and play quarterback again. Falco soon becomes attracted to the team’s head cheerleader, Annabelle Farrell, who likes him as well, but doesn’t want to date him because of her stereotype that all pro athletes are prima donnas.

In the Sentinels’ first game using replacement players, they trail by four with only a few seconds left to play. McGinty calls a passing play, but Falco gets scared and changes the call to a running play. Cochran, the team’s running back, gets tackled just before he reaches the end zone and the Sentinels lose. That night, the actual Sentinels players taunt the replacement players at a bar, leading to fight between the two teams. The replacement players get arrested, but are beginning to build team chemistry, which is something they lacked in the first game. The newfound team chemistry leads to a last second field goal victory in the next game, and then another last second victory the next week, leaving the team needing only one more victory to make the playoffs.

The team’s owner tells McGinty that Eddie Martel has crossed the picket line and will be re-activated by the Sentinels for the final game of the season. McGinty protests at first, saying that he will use Falco as his quarterback, but the owner convinces him that the team can’t afford to have Falco choke with the game on the line, especially since they are playing the best team in the league who has had their entire team cross. A heartbroken McGinty tells Falco that he has been cut in favor of Martel, but Falco accepts the news, saying that it’s best for the team since Martel is better than him, to which McGinty says that Falco has heart and Martel doesn’t. Falco stands Annabelle up on a date because of his depression.

In the final game of the season, Martel has trouble connecting with the rest of the team and scolds the rest of them when he makes a mistake. At halftime, the Sentinels trail 17–0, and reporter asks McGinty what they’ll need to win the game, to which he replies “miles and miles of heart” meant as a message to Falco. Falco hears him say this and comes to the game during halftime, and the rest of the team kicks Martel out of the locker room. Falco runs onto the field at the start of the half and draws loud and thunderous applause from the fans. He apologizes to Annabelle and kisses her on national TV. Cochran is able to run for a touchdown at the beginning of the half before injuring his leg. The Sentinels then score again to cut the lead to 17–14. With only a few seconds left in the game, McGinty calls for a field goal to tie the score and then go into overtime. But when Nigel ‘The Leg’ Gruff, the kicker, gets set, he tells Falco that he can’t kick the field goal, because several men in the audience will “take his pub”. Falco then snaps the ball then runs it all the way for a touchdown, only to have it brought back for a holding call. Falco then goes to the sidelines and tells McGinty that he wants the ball, implying that he has gotten over his fear of choking with the game on the line. Falco throws a pass to tight end Brian Murphy for a touchdown, and the Sentinels win 20–17, advancing to the playoffs, and the Sentinels begin dancing in synchronized formation. The film ends with a voiceover from McGinty saying that when the players left the game that night, there were no endorsement deals or victory parades waiting for them, just a locker waiting to be cleaned out, but it didn’t matter, because they each got a second chance at glory, which lasts forever.

REVIEW:

Football season is over, but apparently Netflix thought it was time to watch another football flick, The Replacements. I’m not complaining, but I would have much rather prefered to have seen this a couple of week ago before the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy what I saw.

What is this about?

Maverick old-guard coach Gene Hackman is hired in the wake of a players’ strike to help the Washington Sentinels advance to the playoffs. But that impossible dream hinges on whether his replacements can hunker down and do the job. So, Hackman dusts off his secret dossier of ex-players who never got a chance (or screwed up the one they were given) and knits together a bad-dream team of guys who just may give the Sentinels their title shot.

What did I like?

Strike. When I was in elementary school, there was an NFL strike. At the same time, I had just moved to a new town and my new friends introduced me to the sport of football. My love of football will always be tied to the strike, so that could be why I was so drawn to this picture, not to mention the fact that it tackles the subject of how little respect (and money) the replacement players received, while the real players just got more money…as always.

Neo. This is still a few years before The Matrix, if I’m not mistaken, but it is obvious that this is one of those films where Reeves is trying to shed that surfer boy image that we know him best for in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. True, he doesn’t exactly shake it off, but hey he gets props for attempting successfully to do so, not to mention he does play a convincing former quarterback.

Chemistry. If you’re a football fan, then you know that team chemistry is important. This is not something the filmmakers left out. It takes awhile for the team to gel, partly because it has been some time since each has played ball, partly because they haven’t gelled as a team, and partly because they just don’t know what the hell they;re doing out there. Eventually the ship is righted, but it isn’t until the final game that we really see how important chemistry is as the team cannot function with the starting quarterback who crossed the picket line, but fire on all cylinders once he returns.

What didn’t I like?

Love story. Maybe it was just me, but the relationship between Reeves and the head cheerleader seemed to be a but cliché and out-of-place. What I mean by that is we have the quarterback and the head cheerleader. To me, that  felt a bit too high school-ish. I didn’t fall for it, but I probably would have if they would have just left her as a football fanatic who owns a bar, or if maybe she was a cheerleader from his past, but as it is, this was just too convenient, for my taste.

Gambling. *SIGH* There is one thing that gets on my nerves about films, especially newer ones, it is when they introduce a plot device for the sole purpose of doing nothing but creating tension for the climax. This is what the whole gambling bit involving Rhys Ifans’ character was. In a different film, I believe it would have worked, perhaps if they would have even given it, and him, more time, it coud have worked here, but that isn’t the case and they shove it in at the last-minute with no build up or anything. I was half expecting them to show up in the locker room and threaten to break his leg, as well as other evil acts.

Similarities. I can’t help but notice how similar this is to another of my favorite football films, Necessary Roughness, especially when it comes to the characters, such as the receiver who can’t catch, washed up former quarterback,  the sumo wrestler offensive linemen, big, black defenders, tough as nails cop, etc. If this was a parody, sequel, or nod to that film, then I’d have no issue, but it comes off as more of a blatant ripoff.

The Replacements is a film that always seems to be on TV, which is never a good sign, as those are typically the type that aren’t very good. Despite that, I actually do like this film. It is one of the better sports comedies around, especially dealing with football. If you’re looking for some hardcore football action, you probably need to look elsewhere, but as far as a feel-good, comedy involving football, this should be your cup of tea. Check it out sometime!

4 out of 5 stars

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