"I know five million [dollars a year] sounds like a lot of money," whines
one of the NFL players with a zillion-dollar ego who has just gone out on
strike against the equally wealthy owners. THE REPLACEMENTS, a surprisingly
funny comedy, is inspired by the 1987 professional football players strike.
Director Howard Deutch, who has directed films from PRETTY IN PINK to THE
ODD COUPLE II, and writer Vince McKewin (FLY AWAY HOME) are perhaps an odd
choice for a sports comedy, but they have come up with a thoroughly
enjoyable piece of entertainment. A good-spirited and energetic film, it
flies by with few pretentious moments. Only in the occasional serious
interludes and in the throw-away romance does its momentum ever sag.
O'Neil (Jack Warden), the owner of the Washington Sentinels, lets Coach
McGinty (Gene Hackman) hire whomever he wants as replacement players until
the "real" players return. McGinty puts together a rag-tag collection of
people who he thinks may have the right skill set regardless of their
background or current place of "employment." Recruiting a prisoner, two
body guards, a convenience store clerk, a gung-ho cop and a sumo wrestler
with a monstrous beer belly (actually a boiled-egg belly) , the coach has a
fearsome team that suffers from its lack of coordination and cooperation.
"I've seen monkeys at the zoo that were more organized that this," says
O'Neil, while shaking his head during the disastrous start of the
replacements' first game.
As his quarterback, the coach taps a known loser, Shane Falco, played as a
likeable and vulnerable everyman by Keanu Reeves (THE MATRIX). "Hey,
Falco," the team's normal quarterback, Martel (Brett Cullen), taunts him,
"you're not even a has-been. You're a never-was." The coach tries his
homespun wisdom on Falco, but he is a pragmatic who isn't impressed. "You
know what separates the winners from the losers, kid?" McGinty asks. "The
score!" Falco retorts.
With characters that are walking clichés, the director doesn't apologize for
them and lets us laugh with them and at them. Since they are only going to
be there a few weeks, the athletes don't take themselves too seriously.
They don't expect to be offered multimillion dollar product endorsements.
They just want to play ball.
Ignoring the axiom of the day that only crudeness sells at the theaters,
Warner Brothers offers a PG-13 movie that, even if it has a few raunchy
moments, can respectably display the PG-13 label. Parents will not be
embarrassed that they let their kids see it, which isn't the case with so
many of the recent PG-13 releases that once would have been considered a
The film's sexual humor comes from its parody of professional cheerleaders.
Annabelle (Brooke Langton) has the task of replacing the cheerleaders. The
auditions are funny but nothing like the game sequences which are hilarious
due to the background of most of the new recruits, whose normal jobs
includes skills such as lap dancing. They are so "good" that they prove an
effective distraction to lure the opposing players' eyes away at a few
NOTTING HILL's quintessentially unsexy Rhys Ifans is perfectly cast as a
Welsh soccer player named Gruff. The out-of-shape, chain-smoking Gruff is a
great place-kicker willing to try 65-yard goals. Like the other members of
the team, he's also quite funny. Using the classic lines from BABE, he
tells the sumo wrestler, Fumiko (Ace Yonamine), when he overachieves during
practice, "That'll do, pig. That'll do."
Unlike so many other recent sports movie, Oliver Stone's confusingly-edited
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, for example, the editing in THE REPLACEMENTS is lucid, and
it is easy to follow the action and get involved in the details of the game.
Among the film's many delights include a dance number led by Orlando Jones.
As the team languishes in jail, he leads them in a rousing routine of Gloria
Gaynor's "I Will Survive." It is a fun moment that captures the essence of
this sweet little picture. The replacement players are having a blast with
their brief moment on the stage, and we are vicariously enjoying it with
THE REPLACEMENTS runs 1:54 but seems much shorter. It is rated PG-13 for
some crude sexual humor and language and would be acceptable for kids around
10 and up.
My son Jeffrey, age 11, had a great time watching it. Giving it ****, he
said it was hilarious. He thought the plot was cool and the football was
great. He laughed loudly and cheered frequently.
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes