"The Replacements" Review
© 2000 Fontaine L.
- spoilers -

"The Replacements" is undeniably a true football movie. I haven't seen many football movies--and I'm not counting "Jerry Maguire"--but I reckon this football movie ranks about average amongst all football movies, because that's what it felt like. Mediocre. Predictable. As predictable as the Sentinels' final game against Dallas: because, well, if they didn't win, the movie would be moot. It's not like the owner has decided to hire them permanently. If they lost, they'd have nothing to celebrate about. Boohoo. As predictable as "The Leg" (Rhys Ifans) always coming through to make that final kick. Of course he can't fail, they have to win three out of four games. I can't, however, find it in myself to condemn this film, because as much as it was formulaic, it had "heart." As any sports movie should. The exuberance that comes with watching unlikely heroes, the good guys, win the day. From the impossible to the miracle. Predictable, yes. But who wants to see the good guys lose?

There are a few obvious flaws. Keanu Reeves as a quarterback. C'mon. The guy had more muscle when he was a SWAT team member in "Speed." However, he grows on you with that quiet earnestness he puts into every role. Who cares if he can't act? He tries anyhow. The characters were aptly stereotypical, but the actors tried their best to instill humor and freshness. The guy who will be forever known as The Seven-Up Guy, for example. Rhys Ifans, Gene Hackman, and others. And whodda thunk, a sumo wrestler who can act?? The romance does not have an ounce of believability, nor does the speed with which Reeves's Shane Falco earns his team members' loyalty and respect. I won't even mention the overwhelming odds these replacements would have faced in reality. But all is well in MovieLand. The football coups are accomplished in a blurred frenzy--and this may very well be because I don't understand football at all--which doesn't help with the believability issue either. It's made to seem . . . too easy. The "villain," Martell, is too obviously and stereotypically insensitive, arrogant, and fails typically when it is his time to shine. Shane Falco returns and makes it all better. The movie is all athletic energy, jock humor, and no substance.

But . . . I will mention a few things about this movie that made it okay. The "I Will Survive" dance scenes. The aforementioned energetic football scenes. And I always like it when people bond. It was refreshing to see Martell get punished for his arrogance, because his actions are all too commonplace in the world of professional sports. Mercenary attitudes. Free agency. Jumping ship as soon as someone offers a larger paycheck. Clashing egos during the game. Athletes forgetting why they started playing the game in the first place. This movie is a sort of fantasy situation where real athletes, athletes with heart, get a "second chance" to shine. Nobody will claim that "The Replacements" is a masterpiece. But hey, it was one heckuva average sports movie.

Rating: B- (First viewing, 8/25/00)