The Replacements Movie Review
Directed by Howard Deutch
Written by Vince McKewin
Release Date: 11 August 2000
Running Time: 118 minutes
Editor’s Rating: NAN DES’ KA out of 4
The best thing football movies ever did for football was to make the sport look exciting. I can remember the Titans all year round and chant “Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!” at the top of my lungs all I want, but at the end of the day, I’m just watching the Super Bowl for the commercials and to maybe see something embarrassing happen at the halftime show.
My name is Rick and I like football movies. There. It feels good to get that off of my chest.
That’s why this week I’m here to talk about The Replacements. It’s a little microcosm of a movie that deserves a moment in the spotlight. Released in 2000, it’s about the not-NFL and its not-NFL players who go on strike, just like in 1987, when the actual NFL had an actual NFL players strike. Gene Hackman plays Gene Hackman, a role he’s trained for his entire life. He’s a washed-up football coach who’s had an on-again off-again working relationship with the owner of the Washington Redsk- I mean, Sentinels. The owner, played by professional old man Jack Warden, agrees to give Gene Hackman full reign over finding, recruiting, and training a crew of B-list athletes to keep the not-NFL games running. Coach Hackman and his team come up with a ragtag group of dudes, a la Major League. Their final roster ends up consisting of a super-meatheady linebacker version of Jon Favreau, running back Orlando Jones, “wiry” field-goal kicker and professional soccer hooligan Rhys Ifans, a team of linebackers including a sumo wrestler and a guy let out of prison on a work furlough, and quarterback Keanu Reeves, our protagonist with a choke complex.
By the way, I did a bit of research on the actual players strike, and apparently that thing about getting a guy from prison to play was actually legit. He played for the Washington Redsk- I mean, Sentin- no wait, I actually mean Redskins this time. Jeez, all of this paper-thin renaming to avoid petty lawsuits from the NFL is exhausting, but I wouldn’t want to risk anything from the litigation-happy NFL. I get it, though. It must be hard to stay in the black because of all the taxes it has to pay. And all of the strides it’s making to take care of its players with CTE.
Anyway, like most football movies, the majority of the action revolves around getting the players to work as a team, and it’s more enjoyable in this case because the characters are fun to look at and listen to. None of them really have personalities per se, they’re just a pile of different attitudes that clash together in humorous ways, and that’s all they need to be. It’s consistently entertaining, the humor having its own quick wit and style that always feels cooler-than-thou. Not that it’s a bad thing. It makes for a comedy that’s just as comfortable having a bar brawl as it is choreographing an impromptu dance party in the comically-oversized drunk tank immediately after.
The Replacements is its own animal, an odd screwball comedy that also manages to have a heart as well. The script conveys a sense of genuine respect toward the replacement players, called scabs and rejected by their own communities. But they find solidarity amongst themselves, even the troubled QB played by Reeves. Speaking of Keanu, he does do a serviceable job as a straight man, and he has mercifully little comedic heavy lifting to do on his own. Not to pick on him, though. The internet does that enough. I like Keanu Reeves. He’s a cool guy and has taken all of the things in his life - poverty, family troubles, The Matrix: Revolutions - all in great stride. He’s just not that great at jokes.
Also, I know I mentioned him earlier, but holy crap Jon Favreau is in this and he’s playing a dim-witted jarhead stereotype and it is GLORIOUS. That alone is reason to see this movie, but there is so much more fun to be had here that you deserve to check it out. You won’t regret it.
** I watched this film via a streaming service I pay for. I was not compensated for this review.**
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