Movie Review by Debbie Winkler
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Greg Kinnear, Elizabeth Banks, Kevin Conway, Michael Rispoli
Director: Ericson Core
Release Date: 25 August 2006
Length: 105 minutes
Movie Rating: PG
View Format: TV
“Devoted Philadelphia Eagles fan Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg) has just lost his wife and his job as a substitute teacher. But by impressing his favorite NFL team’s coach in open tryouts and winning a place on the field, he turns a terrible year into a winner. Greg Kinnear and Elizabeth Banks co-star in this inspirational, fact-based drama from the producers of the similar but baseball-themed The Rookie.” — Netflix.com
I am a sucker for inspiring sports dramas and this one definitely fits the bill! What guy doesn’t dream about being selected to play a professional football team? That is what happens to Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg), a part-time bartender who is at a real low point in his life. His wife walked out on him, he lost his teaching job and his dad tells him that it would be best if he didn’t try out for the Eagles team because he doesn’t have a chance. Papale does try out for the team and, surprisingly, he makes it! What he doesn’t know is that making the team is the easy part! Now he has to somehow get along with a bunch of pro players or resent the newbie in their midst and see him as nothing more than a publicity stunt. As Papale struggles to fit in to pro ball, he realizes that family, friends and his city are just as important as sports and becomes a real inspiration to everyone around him.
I love that this movie is based on a true story and that there are some clips at the end of the real Papale. You get to see his touchdown in vintage video, some pictures of what he really looked like, and read a couple of paragraphs about what Papale really did and what he went on to achieve. Watching movies like this, about real people, always inspires me and helps me to realize that the only thing keeping me from reaching out to fulfill my dreams is myself. I am always afraid to fail so I don’t even try. It is true that I probably will fail before I succeed, but I am guaranteed to fail if I don’t even try. That is one of the most important messages in this movie – to put yourself out there and to try to become what you want to be. I also loved the message given my Papale’s father about how one famous touchdown got him through 30+ years of work at the factory. I think it is very easy for professional athletes to forget that they can inspire a city, a state or a stalwart group of loyal fans. To them, it is just another job, but, to their fans, it is one of the highlights of life. I am not a huge sports fan myself, but watching movies like this one make me want to be one.
The setting is in the 1970s and they tried to make the people look authentic so there are some great clothes and hairstyles. They really did try to tone it down a bit, though, so it doesn’t look quite as dated as you may think. The music was terrific and is appropriate for the period. I enjoyed hearing some old favorites of mine and thought that they did a great job selecting music to fit the scenes. The acting was believable and I enjoyed meeting a lot of the secondary characters. Some of Papale’s friends are a real hoot! Some of the football games look almost like video games and you can tell that there is quite a bit of CGI used to make them look “real.” Still, the football games are very inspiring and I was on the edge of my seat, cheering as Papale went on to help his team win a few games. If you are looking for a good, inspiring sports drama that is based on a real story, this is one that should make your list!
There are some scenes of smoking and drinking (Papale works in a bar so there is a lot of drinking). There is some strong language. There is quite a bit of violence on the football field, but few fights off the field. There is a mild romance with kisses and flirtation. The town is struggling at the time so there is a lot of unemployment, which leads to strikes, picketing and some political talk. Recommended for ages 8 and up.