I wish I could have been in the pitch meeting for this ridiculous notion of a sports film. I bet it was some hotshot Warner Brothers agent with an dark Armani suit and manicured fingernails saying, "It would be a very light comedic version of Any Given Sunday, and we could throw in the Hoosiers angle with the casting of Gene Hackman as the tough but determined coach. Throw in that hunk of a guy Keanu Reeves and a cast of wacky characters and poof! We'll have a hit on our hands!"
The Replacements is a hokey mistake of a football film, a mishmash collage of one-dimensional characters, rampant stereotypes of cultures and races, cliched emotional statements of purpose, and Keanu Reeves wishing for The Matrix sequel to start principal photography. The story is loosely based around the pro football players' strike in 1987 and a rag-tag team of replacement football players taking up the reins of professional play for a variety of teams with names like the Washington Sentinels. Keanu Reeves stars as Shane Falco, a has-been football college player looking for redemption. Gene Hackman dons a fedora like Tom Landry and speaks with gusto like a certain coach in Hoosiers.
Rounding out the cast includes Swingers' Jon Favreau, 7-Up pitchman Orlando Jones, gruff owner Jack Warden, and cast of wacky and unknown actors who do amazing jobs of portraying perfectly stereotyped characters: the drunken Welshman, the overweight Sumo wrestler, the black convict, the violent cop, and the dumb, dumb cheerleaders.
This bunch of nobodies try to make something of themselves by taking the team to the season playoffs with unbelievable football plays, Gene Hackman yelling and asking himself where the hell Dennis Hopper is, Keanu Reeves looking for his body double making him look good on the football field, and cheerleaders hired from the local strip club making the girls from Coyote Ugly look like waitresses from Denny's.
The usual things happen like clockwork. The hero rises from the ashes of failure, the team comes together in unity, the hero falls in love with a conventional love interest, the football games are won with enough schlock value to make the most ignorant of audiences cheer and clap, and the cheerleaders make you want to go home and watch late night movies on Cinemax.
It's also a shame when decent directors with good movies under their belts go to seed and become television and sequel hacks. Howard Deutch, who was behind the camera for two of the best films of '80s - Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful, has since been doing Grumpier Old Men and Caroline in the City episodes. Obviously the problem is that without a good script, any director will fail in the end.
Sports films are strong vehicles for cinematic glory, gritty tales involving the honor of men and the valiant efforts taken for the ultimate goal of victory in the face of insurmountable odds, the rise and fall of gallant heroes, and stories of dramatic gusto painted with blood and sweat on the battlefield of life.
The Replacements offers none of this.
Brooke Langton stars with her replacements.