By Fred Topel | Images property of Touchstone Pictures.
I just wasn’t in the mood for Invincible. I can usually tolerate a generic sports movie, even if it isn’t the life altering meditation that was D2: The Mighty Ducks. But I had just seen The Protector and Mark Wahlberg had a really tough act to follow.
Invincible Movie Review
In the latest Disney true sports story, bartender Vince Papale (Wahlberg) tries out for the Philadelphia Eagles in open tryouts and wins a spot on the team. Even though all his loser friends keep telling him to stop trying, even after he’s made it, he must persevere. Imagine what would happen if he didn’t? There’d be no underdog. Noooooooo!
Disney did well making racism fun to overcome in Remember the Titans, making it cool to neglect your family in The Rookie and by making the most famous sporting event in Olympic history suspenseful in Miracle. Even the golf movie was awesome.
Now they’ve run out of ideas. Glory Road was racism again and Invincible is another average joe joining the team. Audiences are pretty forgiving of formula, but when you start getting into subcategories of knockoffs, it’s too much of a stretch.
The first go-round, you felt there was some heart in discovering these stories. Now they’re pandering so much it’s insulting. First of all, this is Disney’s version of losers. Vince has no work because he lost his teaching job, but he’s still bartending so he’s not a bum. His friends can’t find work either. There’s talk about a strike but strikers can take temp jobs. All they do is talk about being failures. We never see anyone failing because god forbid we might not like one of the characters.
So far, the only obstacle in Vince’s path are the losers badmouthing him. Is that really a great triumph? Yeah, tryouts are hard and the veteran athletes resent him, but dude, what else does he have to do? The Rookie had a family to support so it was a real dilemma. If you’re divorced, alone and jobless, and there are tryouts, and you make the cut, what’s the issue?
There’s an extremely superficial analysis of Vince adjusting to fame. Basically, someone recognizes him on the street and one of his friends grows distant.
The film begs you to feel the emotional beats that it plods through. Wahlberg’s hair flows in slow motion to beg you to feel triumphant. Music swells during an emotional game in the rain that’s supposed to represent his connection to his friends. The camera spins around Coach Vermiel (Greg Kinnear) as he makes his speech about winners. This is no Rudy speech. There’s no metaphor for life. It’s really just about winning football games.
Occasionally they throw in an actual football trick to make the sport seem somewhat exciting. Finally, the size and scope of a live game comes through with surround sounds and epic visuals, but that’s only in the third act. They don’t manage to make football seem like a big deal, even though they tell us that The Eagles transcend all the town’s hardships.
There are a few cute touches. The neighbor makes pasta, the love interest is a Giants fan… At least since you know all the beats of the story, you can feel it getting closer to the end. But the credits show the actual plays Papale made and they are decidedly less dramatic than those in the movie. They somehow stretch a 10 yard fumble recovery into a half field dash. You realize that the surprise of the real play is actually more exciting than the drawn out fakery of the movie magic and that probably sums up this whole adaptation.