by Alan Rapp on August 25, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Invincible is a nice little film.  More about relationships and dreams than football, the film tells the true story of a part-time bartender who earned a chance to play professional football, and how achieving his dream changed the world of everyone around him.  A little sappy?  Maybe, but it’s and engaging, passionate, and well made film that will pull you in and entertain you.  It’s the perfect family film for the summer.

4 Stars

The film starts out with the credit sequence to an old Jim Croce song, so I’m set.  Invincible makes all the right small decisions in tone, scope, story, and character.  What easily could have been a cheap movie of the week sports story (see Peaceful Warrior) becomes an engaging film about friendship, love, and chasing you dreams.

Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg) is an out of work substitute teacher scraping by with part time shifts at a friend’s (Michael Rispoli) bar during the depression of the mid-1970’s in Philadelphia.  He comes home to find his wife (Lola Glaudini) gone and has to ask for the help of his father (Kevin Conway) to pay the rent.

Philadelphia is in a crisis of its own.  The Eagles have become the laughingstock of the NFL.  Fresh from his experience in college, new head coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) is brought in shake things up.  One of his first orders of business is to have open tryouts to motivate his team and the community into caring about football. 

Papale’s friends, who play a regular pick-up football game, get him to try out and a funny thing happens…he gets a chance to make the team.

In film about football there’s actually not much football.  The focus is in on Papale and his friends, the hard times they are forced to go through, and how his one chance ends up turning all their lives around. 

Of course there’s your obligatory love story as Papale falls for his friend’s cousin (Elizabeth Banks), a die-hard New York Giants fan – which provides two of the best jokes of the movie.

The other, lesser, focus is on Vermiel.  Sometimes Hollywood casts a part perfectly, and I can’t think of another actor better suited to play the tough, heart-on-his-sleeve coach than Greg Kinnear, who does a great job.  Paige Turco also gives a nice performance in the small role as his wife.

Based on the true story of Papale and Dick Vermeil, it’s a touching, if a little bit schmaltzy, tale.  If you enjoyed films like Miracle and The Rookie then put your sights on this one and drive to the hole ‘cause this one’s right up your alley (that mix-up enough sports metaphors for you?).

There aren’t too many football scenes, but those included in the film are shot and cut together well; you can actually see the action rather than the current quick-cut Hollywood trend.  The Eagles/Cowboys gave was actually filmed in Cowboy Stadium, which is pretty cool, though nitpickers like myself will notice the current type of Astroturf wasn’t invented yet.

A final note to families, the film is rated PG, and with scenes that take place in locker rooms and bars, there’s a surprisingly lack of any “bad” language in the film.  It’s a film that parents can feel good taking their entire family to and get to see a good movie at the same time.

A perfect family film for the summer.  I’d recommend it to any and all, even those who don’t understand or care for football.  It’s a story about being given a chance to do something great and actually achieving it.  If you ask me we need all the dreamers, and luck, we can get these days.

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