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The Replacements

Rated [PG-13], 105 minutes
Starring Keanu Reeves, Gene Hackman, Brooke Langton, Orlando Jones and Jack Warden
Screenplay by Vince McKewin
Directed by Howard Deutch

IN SHORT: Buy microwave popcorn

Two weeks running, a major motion picture studio release has featured Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" as a prominent feature of its soundtrack. If it happens again next week, some studio exec somewhere is going to die. And while I'm off the point of this review, if you're one of the horde of teen kidlets that look only at the number below before zapping off an obscenity spewing dissmail about The Matrix, don't waste either of our time(s). Read the words in the review. Better yet, click here for a history of what we do and why. If it's any consolation, The Matrix is more fun. The Replacements has much better looking cheerleaders . . .

The Replacements is also much more a comedy than a "football" movie and, that being said, has enough holes in its story and visual continuity that you could probably run two flatbed trucks through it, side by side. The Replacements features a name brand star in a fairly weak romantic subplot and supporting characters that could best be described as the football character equivalent of one of those tiny circus cars that spill out a dozen clowns. There's nothing heavy duty in a story which is almost flat out predictable -- I'm not sure if any of what passes for the big conflict and resolution at the movie's end is even legal in professional football. When things slow down, director Howard Deutch cues up a rock song or sends in the clowns.

It seems that, with four games left to go in the regular season, the professional ass-thletes of this pseudo NFL have decided that they're getting about a million dollars less than they should -- lawyers, managers, accountants, and those pesky insurance payments on their Ferrarri's add up, you know -- so they go out on strike. This doesn't sit well with Washington Sentinels owner Edward O'Neil (Jack Warden), who replaces his regular coach with the retired Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman). O'Neil had fired McGinty a couple of years before, and just exactly what was wrong with the never seen current coach is just the first in a long line of things the script by Vince McKewin ignores. With every other team in the league buying up semi-pro teams, O'Neil lets McGinty hire his own set of replacement players, men he has been "keeping my eye on", a sure indicator that McGinty has too much time on his retired hands.

Actually, these second stringers are more fun to watch than the top name talent, namely Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves) who hasn't tread on a football field since losing the 1996 Sugar Bowl by 45 points. Falco prefers to scrape the barnacles off luxury yachts in the Baltimore harbor. He'll catch the eye of head cheerleader Annabelle Farrell (Brooke Langton) who, of course, won't date players. He'll see his favorite truck trashed again and again by the striking players, led by regular QB Eddie Martel (Brett Cullen), and quietly try to mold his second stringers into a team with playoff potential. Lessee now; get the girl, upstage the egomaniac and save the day. Gosh. Do you think it's possible ???

Describing those players would be enough to kill any inclination you may have to see this flick, that's how generic and predictable their individual stories are. We'll concentrate on two: Orlando Jones (who left MADtv way too soon) as the fleet footed receiver Clifford Franklin, who can't catch a ball to save his life, and Rhys Ifans as Welsh bar owner Nigel "the Leg" Gruff whose character will do more for the tobacco industry than any cowboy on a horse.

Fox-TV commentators Pat Summerall and John Madden awkwardly describe the action both on screen and off. Combined they can't top what Phil Rizzuto did for baseball on Meatloaf's Bat Out Of Hell, so we'll move on to another thing in this story that makes no sense -- and boy are we glad for that. It seems that the $50 a game regular cheerleaders are so loyal to their team that Annabelle also has to hire replacements, conveniently found in a local lapdance bar. The hard working actresses that add to their resumes with such sexist, unforgiving and PC-incorrect roles should all get a hearty thanks from us red-blooded boys . . . especially the redhead with the shag haircut in the back row who doesn't get nearly enough screen time . . . because they provide thankful distraction from a production filled with continuity and mathematical errors -- a touchback less ten yards of penalties does not put the ball on the eight yard line. OR the Coach being told that the ball is at the 23 yard line when the stadium announcer puts it at the 34 (sic) and so on.

The Replacements is flat out sloppy moviemaking. That doesn't mean it isn't fun. That doesn't mean that the supporting characters aren't funny. It just means that this sucker can stand the wait until the real season starts and you can grab it on pay per view.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Replacements, he would have paid...


It's a dateflick for August. Never expect a lot of anything in August.

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