As Sports Movie Week rattles on to day 3, we’re sticking with the classic American sports. Today, football. Tomorrow, the world. (Or possibly ice hockey)
Loggia should do more comedy.
When Texas State University’s entire football team and coaching staff are thrown out for rules violations, it’s up to replacement head coach Ed Gennero to build a new team around a bunch of ragtag misfits recruited from open tryouts, including a 34-year-old freshman quarterback, a PhD astrophysicist and female place-kicker. Can these no-hopers become a winning team by season’s end?
I was watching this film for the first time this evening and I kept thinking to myself that I had seen it somewhere before. After about an hour it hit me: this is, beat for beat, almost exactly the same story as the Gene Hackman/Keanu Reeves flick The Replacements, except that was based around an NFL strike instead of a college team. Other than that and a handful of other minor details, The Replacements is practically a remake. Now I’m swimming against the tide a little here by saying that Gene and Keanu and director Howard Deutch made a film that I really enjoy watching, and the same goes for Stan Dragoti’s movie.
American football seems to be one of the sport that best translates to movies. Maybe it’s because the stop-start nature of the game allows for more character interaction, or maybe it’s just the violence. It’s probably the violence. The cast for this one helps as well. Scott Bakula is front and centre as the reluctant QB Paul Blake with Hector Elizondo as Gennero. Most of the comedy comes from the legendary Robert Loggia as Riggendorf, Gennero’s short-tempered assistant coach, and Larry Miller as the weaselly Dean Elias.
The biggest names amongst the rest of the team would be a young Jason Bateman as the rich kid trying to get out from his family’s shadow, and Sinbad as the PhD student and Blake’s closest friend on the team. There are no big Oscar moments for any of the cast, but Dragoti knows what kind of film he is making and does the job accordingly, helped out by Allan Graf as the football director – a job he has done for just about every football-related movie in the last twenty or so years.
The concept of college sports doesn’t exist here in the UK the same way it does in the US – most of what I know about it I learned from the movies – but I’m sure it was pretty refreshing in 1991 to see a flick that showed the ugly side of college football (unethical recruitment, bribery, falsifying test grades), albeit briefly.
Necessary Roughness is reasonably entertaining for what it is, though what it is is essentially a gridiron version of Major League, the same way Deutch’s film is an NFL version of this. The nature of a sports movie means that there are really only so many places the plot can take you. What separates the wheat from the chaff then is the script and the characters. Writers Rick Natkin and David Fuller have put together an easy-going story populated with mostly likeable archetypes, but archetypes none the less.
It really sounds like I’m hedging my bets here. That’s not the case, really. I’m just not terribly excited by this film. It’s a decent enough way to pass an afternoon, but not a whole lot more than that.