Necessary Roughness (1991) — The 40-Year-Old Freshman

“I’m gonna make you a promise. We get into that endzone, you’re not gonna feel any pain.”

Justin’s rating: I won’t embarrass myself by pretending to know how football scoring works

Justin’s review: There’s something deeply comforting in a good — or even decent — sports comedy. Heck, you know me — I don’t like watching real sports at all. Don’t much care for it or see the appeal. But I’ll change my tune if it’s a packaged movie experience with all of the tropes and trimmings. Maybe it’s the condensed presentation of said sport. Perhaps it’s the wacky characters. But most likely it’s the uplifting music and guaranteed feel-good win at the end.

That’s something that the real Chicago Cubs can never claim. They’re football, right?

Before he signed up to play in minor league baseball, Scott Bakula tried his hand at pigskin play in 1991’s Necessary Roughness. I always liked this movie from afar, mostly for its kooky steerhorn football logo. All movies should have a fun logo, I think. In any case, this film clearly drew from the same playbook as Major League: Start out with an underdog team of misfits, give them a surprising hero, and watch as a montage gels them into a super-team able to cross the finish line and slap some pucks into the goal.

Struck with several violations that stripped them of their best players, the Texas State University Fightin’ Armadillos are forced to cobble together a makeshift team for its new season without any underhanded machinations.

As we’d expect, new head coach Ed Gennaro (Héctor Elizondo) cobbles together unorthodox picks. He’s got Sinbad joking up the field, an extremely young Jason Bateman learning to do a proper chicken dance in the endzone, a self-appointed samurai, and (gasp) girlie girl Kathy Ireland stepping up to be the kicker. And for a quarterback, the college entices 34-year-old  farmer Paul Blake (Bakula) to sign up for classes and have the shot at his dream that he never got.

But they’ve got the odds stacked against them. So much so, in fact, that their limited numbers mean that all players have to go offense and defense, which is something every other sport looks at football and goes, “Aww, you’ve got it so tough there pal.”

It’s all Major League, right down to the big baddie not being the other teams but rather the college’s own dean (a smarmy Larry Miller, who wants the program shut down to make him more money somehow). Composer Bill Conti (Karate Kid, Rocky) gives us the appropriately stirring score. Oh, and we need a loudmouth commentator, so this time we get [checks] Rob Schneider. It was the ’90s, after all. Movie studios took turns babysitting the Robster back then.

Between football practices and games, we get a little bit of college hijinks. I think there’s some good story possibilities in following an adult struggling to fit into a college of much, much younger kids, but Blake doesn’t have it too hard. Everyone respects his mad throwing arm, and you know that he’s going to get all smoochy with an age-appropriate love interest to keep him from drowning in loneliness.

Necessary Roughness is happy to play it safe. Middle-of-the-road without any unexpected twists and turns. It’s not going to excel in any area, but it’s not likely to let you down, either. Scott Bakula is an aw-shucks charming lead who is easy to cheer, there are plenty of humorous quips, and I had forgotten that Larry Miller plays human slime so effortlessly. I had the good time I was promised, and for that, I’ll give it as many high-fives as it needs until it feels validated.

Didja notice?

  • That news channel scored a suspiciously high amount of undercover footage
  • Don’t be all you can be. It’s a little too much.
  • “They’re always shouting.”
  • “I hope he gets younger as he gets closer”
  • Samurai taking down his team with martial arts
  • Sinbad so looks like Neil deGrasse Tyson with his cosmos presentation
  • Haha pump up helmet
  • Doggie breath and rabies shots
  • Don’t be the quarterback who hides behind the ref
  • “What are you in for, anyway?” “COMPUTER FRAUD.”
  • Indoor bull riding arena. Good business plan.
  • Whistle envy is a real thing
  • Don’t anger a kicker
  • That is one atmospherically lit shower
  • He brought his playbook and whistle to the hospital?
  • “Gennero’s last words were… win, or I’ll die.”
  • “How can the ref call that? It was a clean kick to the face mask.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s