“Invincible” is more like serviceable
The two-minute warning, hurry-up offense analysis of Disney’s latest sports “chump-to-champ” story adheres to the “Three R” formula: “Invincible” is part “Rudy,” part “Rocky,” with a dash of “The Rookie” tossed in for good measure. Disney has recently (and masterfully) been cranking out at least one of these underdog crowd pleasers a year. Here, “Invincible” (a too lofty title) offers the true story of bartender-turned-football-player Vince Papale.
Vince’s (Mark Wahlberg) story is indeed unique. At the age of 30, the recently laid-off teacher and part-time barkeep with no college football experience tries out and earns a spot on the 1976 Philadelphia Eagles.
The perfunctory screenplay touches on all the expected moments: Vince’s wife leaves him, his buddies encourage him, and his semi-estranged Dad ignores him. Against all odds, Vince is determined to make his dream come true– and it does when he’s makes the team after hundreds of wannabees show up for a public tryout. One of the best moments in the film takes place when Vince walks through the Eagles locker room for the first time and sees all the uniforms hanging in place while realizing it’s really happening. It’s a moment anyone who’s ever fantasized about making it to the “bigs” will understand.
Complicity from the NFL to research the actual strategies of legendary coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) along with some great on the field bruise-inducing action sequences lend authenticity to the film. First-time director Ericson Core films much of the story in a sepia-gold tone, allowing his experience as a cinamatogpher to surface. But there’s a lot missing in “Invincible” that can’t be ignored.
Those looking for some depth of character, especially in Vince’s too-good-to-be true depiction will be disappointed. It’s not that these cardboard stereotypes must have flaws, but it’s nice to see something that humanizes the subject, something that will lend true emotion to the character’s ultimate acheivement.
Wahlberg is fine as the average Joe underdog, but he doesn’t capture any of the highly excitable charisma of the real Papale evidenced in the 10 seconds of archive footage shown in the film’s epilogue. The talented Kinnear also feels miscast– his boyish charm diffuses Vermeil’s real life grit which was offset by his well-publicized reputation for crying on camera (thankfully not exploited here).
The women in “Invincible” are pretty much the same as you’ll find in all sports movies. Elizabeth Banks portrays Vince’s new girl, and Lola Glaudini is the coach’s supportive wife who peeks in from the kitchen to gently nudge her husband toward inspiration.
“Invincible” doesn’t have Kurt Russell’s commanding presence, so it’s not at the level of 2004’s “Miracle.” Nor does it display the racial tension that provided some edge to “Remember the Titans” or “Friday Night Lights.”
It’s formulaic, but for most movie fans, the formula works.
One thing the film reminds us: The music and the cars of the 70s were hot, but the hairstyles and the clothes were not.
Rated PG for sports related violence.