Invincible review by Rosie

See this movie compete in Jackass Critics Tournament of Sports Movies


Theres really only one way to review a movie like this fairly, and that is to do it twice. Once for regular, level-headed family types and then again for the hardcore sports fan. That is because this movie presents itself as a sports movie but, being a Walt Disney joint, needs to ultimately try to appeal across the board to the widest possible audience. The result is that the prior of the two groups I will address may be pleasantly enchanted, while the latter is likely to be powerfully annoyed. For the record, I believe this is the way all sports movies looking to cater to a crossover audience should always be reviewed.

General/Family Audience Review

Invincible is the true story of the unlikely rise of Philadelphia native Vince Papale from aging, underemployed bartender to hometown NFL hero. The too-good-to-be-true, true story is delivered to the screen by the same team of Disney imagineers that tackled the similar real-life sports triumph tales of Jimmy Morris (The Rookie) and the 1980 US Olympic hockey team (Miracle). As far as heartwarming, family entertainment goes, there will be at least a few moments in here for everyone to enjoy. Should you go on to read both versions of this review, youll see that there are plenty of problems with the delivery of this story from the sports realism side, but if youre not really a big sports fan you probably wouldnt even notice. In fact, if youre not a sports fan, you might even enjoy this movie more than if you were. Even being one, I have to admit that I might still have caught a little frog in my throat during a few scenes of Vinces triumphs. Well, maybe just a tadpole, but Im pretty jaded so Im sure some of you more well-adjusted people will probably feel it even more. True, many of these scenes are pure, unapologetic emotional manipulation, but its Disney. Its what they do and they do it well. Plus, the fact that it is a true story carries a lot of weight in keeping even the most cynical viewers drawn in.

If youre not familiar with what, exactly, that true story is, heres the gist. Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg) is a just over 30 Philly native who hits a rough patch that includes being left by his wife, being laid off by his job and his being a life-long fan of the increasingly abysmal Philadelphia Eagles. If hes got one thing left going for him its dominating all his old buddies in their weekly junkyard football games. So when new Eagles coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) arrives and announces hes going to hold open tryouts, his buddies all convince Vince that hes got to go for it. Despite really only holding the tryouts as a publicity stunt to bring the fans back, Vermeil sees something special in Papale and decides to give him a chance. The rest, as we cant always say, is actually history.

I have a few other general points of interest for both non-sports fans and sports fans alike to watch for that Ill put in the last section. Feel free to skip over the next section to check them out. (Though we both know you wont. I dare you to try to not read the second review you know you cant do it.). Overall, if youre looking for a safe, fun, family feature with something for almost everyone, except maybe your suspiciously effeminate pre-teen son or unreasonably defensive goth daughter, Invincible delivers the goods in typical Disney style.

Sports Fan Review

If you dont already know the basic details of the Vince Papale story, you probably chose the wrong review to read. Go up to the first one and get your primer, then feel free to come on back here if youre still interested in more detail about the football scenes in this movie. For the rest of you, lets get right down to it here.

First off, dont go into this movie thinking of it as a sports movie and youll save yourself a whole lot of headache. Its painfully obvious from the very first scene that any type of realistic footage had no place in the conceptualization of this film. In fact, what is most clear about this film is that the sports fan was the one demographic that the producers took entirely for granted throughout. Banking on the fact that you, NFL junkie, would see this movie no matter what simply because it is based on a true tale of NFL lore and because they landed the licensing rights to throw all their actors in real, vintage unis, the focus then became on making the football scenes more appealing to non-fans and children. What results is a smattering of CGI-glossed game scenes that any red-blooded American male will recognize immediately as being ripped directly from about three years worth of EA Sports Madden commercials. The intent to build in the video game visual crossover is pretty blatant, with even the opening coin flip scenes shot in that overhead-camera-sweeping-into-the-stadium-and-sliding-to-a-stop-over-two-straight-rows-of-captains-and-a-ref-at-midfield look that weve all come so accustomed to skipping past.

As frustrating as the NFL game action may look though, its still consistently preferable to the homoerotic rock ballads lightly disguised as the junkyard pick-up games. You know how sometimes porn movies will shoot the same scenes from two angles and produce them in two different edits, so that one can be sold direct to your childs bus driver on his favorite hard-core bestiality pay site, and the other can be sold to Showtime as content for one of their late Thursday night softcore series? Same actors, same story, same events, except in one you just dont quite see everything going on below the belt so explicitly? Thats what these junkyard pick-up scenes felt like, the second edit of an all male outdoor orgy film. I have no doubt that somewhere out there exists an underground tape being circulated in ultra-private clubs called In Vince, I Ball with all of the first edits of these scenes.

The other thing you might notice is the acting. The idea of actually trying to recreate any of the recognizable main characters was apparently another non-starter in production meetings. Anyone who has ever seen Vince Papale in an interview (or just watches the extras on this DVD) knows he always comes across as a big-smiling, larger than life, garrulous gorilla. From the looks of this, it appears playing him as a sensitive, brooding, wavy-haired matinee idol tested better across more demos. Basically he gets played the same way as all of Mark Wahlbergs characters as Mark Wahlberg. (Speaking of this, it used to be Tom Cruise who was the butt of this running joke: Q. Who did Tom Cruise play in Cocktail? A. Tom Cruise as a bartender.; Q. Who did Tom Cruise play in A Few Good Men? A. Tom Cruise as a lawyer., etc.. Mark Wahlberg is becoming a lead-pipe lock as the next generations punchline to this joke if he doesnt show a little range soon.) The other one that stands out is Greg Kinnears lazy stab at Dick Vermeil. In a few training camp scenes he looks like hes trying to talk out of the side of his mouth a little like Vermeil, but otherwise he follows the same advice that Disney gave Kurt Russell about portraying Herb Brooks in Miracle: comb your hair like the guy and then just be yourself.

Odds and Ends for Everyone

Check out the coach clapping on the sideline behind Wahlberg as he lines up for his first snap in Eagles training camp thats the real Vince Papale in his only cameo.

Disney goes way out of their way to put together a marketable soundtrack and cram it down your throats. The number of scenes set to a big sound, 70s rock anthem versus the number of scenes not has to be something like 30 to 1.

I didnt think to check this in the credits when I was watching, but I have no doubt that somewhere towards the end of them there is a line that reads Special Assistant to Mr. Wahlberg Victor Conte. If you dont know what that means, ask one of the Sports Fan Review readers.

5 out of 10 Jackasses
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