Invincible (2006) — Wholesome ball handling

“Even if you’re down there for an hour, you’re down there.”

Lissa’s rating: E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!

Lissa’s review: I have no real interest in football, but apparently, you can become a fan by marriage. Now, granted, it’s safer in Philadelphia to be an Eagles fan than it is not to be — Eagles fans do have their reputations. As one character in Invincible points out, these are the people that threw snowballs at Santa Claus, for crying out loud. Seriously — the quickest way to commit suicide in Philly is to go into a busy street and shout “Go Cowboys!” I’m sure you’ll be dead in minutes, unless they opt for torture. I mean, I gave this movie a “2” in cult precisely because I live amongst Eagle fans.

So, yeah. Go Eagles!

Invincible is the apparently true story of the Eagles in 1976, when Dick Vermeil (played by Greg Kinnear) is hired to turn around the Eagles’ losing streak. In an effort to rally up some publicity and drive home to his players that they are not gods, he holds open tryouts for the Eagles. Naturally, every yahoo who ever walked the streets of Philly and thinks they can play ball shows up. The coaches don’t find what they’re looking for — except for one guy, Vince Papale. (Played by Mark Wahlberg, but don’t let that stop you. And I just got the title, In-VINCE-able.) Vince eventually makes the Eagles, and heartwarming ensues. Yay!

You might wonder how much of this is really true to life and how much is artistic license. I am guessing that the costuming and hair is true to life, because no one would voluntarily wear some of those mustaches if they didn’t have to. But the rest of it — who knows? I’m never completely sure how I feel about that on a moralistic ground, but hey, I enjoyed the movie nonetheless.

Invincible is very much in the lines of Rudy and The Replacements, (wow, that sounds like a girl group of reindeer, doesn’t it?) with a lot of Miracle thrown in there as well. One might expect a lot of clichés, and who are we kidding? You get some of them. Cute blonde love interest? Check. Hero up against immense odds? Check. Hero is given some piece of fundamental knowledge (or fairly fundamental) and uses it to win the game? Check. Again, all of this may actually be real life, I’m not sure, but still. It happens a lot in Hollywood, too. But at the same time, Invincible does avoid a lot of the other big sports movie cliches. No impassioned speeches that inspire the team. No big lessons about life and love — at least, none that aren’t actually fairly subtle. (There’s one gesture that Vince makes at the end that expresses his emotional journey far more eloquently than any speech ever could.)

It’s pretty predictable, sure. But you know, I didn’t really care. The story of Vince Papale is such a nice story that I think it’s a great one to be told in movie format. There’s actually a line in Quills that keeps coming back to me every time I see one of these “inspired by a true story” movies like Invincible, Miracle, or October Sky. The Marquis tells the Abbey that we all have our basic carnal needs, at least two of which I’m not allowed to type on this site. And then the Abbey also points out that we create, we write symphonies, and we do other noble things. It’s a good point. So many movies that are considered great are focused on sadder parts of human nature. It’s great to see a movie like this where the focus is on what a person can achieve, and what that can mean to people whose lives they touch.

Sermon aside, there were a lot of things I liked about Invincible. I really liked that there was no real “villain” (The Cowboys don’t count). I liked the bonding they showed between Vince and Dick. Instead of sappy, emotional speeches or deep, meaningful rounds of mutual encouragement, their interactions were actually sort of subtle. Hey — this is a Disney flick — subtle is a major achievement. I liked that it was about the Philadelphia Eagles and set in Philly, even though I really don’t hale from here originally and couldn’t find my way around the city with a map. I liked that it was a movie I’ll be able to watch with my son and with my stepfather at the same time.

It’s nothing new and nothing revolutionary, but it’s worth renting. Unless you’re a Cowboys fan.

Didja notice?

  • There are times and places for relieving yourself, and that is not it.
  • The names of the Eagles are actually the names of the guys that played at the time? Cool.
  • The comment about the fans throwing snowballs at Santa Claus?
  • The words “love interest” tattooed across Janet’s forehead? Well, they weren’t there, but they might as well have been.
  • A pretty cool ’70s soundtrack?

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