The march of inspirational sports-themed Disney movies continues with Invincible, the true story of Philadelphia native Vince Papale, who tried out and made the Philadelphia Eagles. It's really no secret as to what happens - anybody with an internet connection can find out, moreover, this subgenre of films is about scrappy underdog success stories - the fun is in watching the story unfold. Invincible does have an inspiring story; it just feels a bit more limited than some of the other, more universal efforts like Miracle, The Rookie, or Remember the Titans. Thematically, Invincible is most similar to The Rookie; but the latter is much more satisfying emotionally.
In 1976, the Philadelphia Eagles hired UCLA coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear, Little Miss Sunshine, Bad News Bears) in order to help them get better after an especially pathetic season. Vermeil wanted to shake things up a bit, so he announced an open try-out. Anybody could try out for the Eagles, and if they made the cut, could play for the team. The city was in the midst of strikes and continuing job losses. Across town in South Philly, substitute teacher Vincent Papale (Mark Wahlberg, Four Brothers, I [Heart] Huckabees) loses his job as a substitute teacher, and his wife leaves him. He works part time as a bartender, is a rabid fan of the Eagles, and also has a lot of fun playing football with his friends. See where this is going?
Director Ericson Core and screenwriter Brad Gann have all the pieces in place. Papale is down on his luck, and his circumstances are bad. No job, no wife, little future, and a gruff father. Yet, he plays football like nobody else, and to everybody's astonishment, makes the first cut and keeps getting better. He's thirty, which is ancient in football years, and the other players dismiss him derisively. In the meantime, they throw in an attractive love interest (Elizabeth Banks, Slither, The 40 Year Old Virgin) and a bunch of working class friends.
But just because all the pieces are there doesn't mean Invincible will work. It does, to a degree, but fails to truly move the viewer. Part of this is because of the story. Yes, it is inspiring, but all too often it feels like Core and Gann are mining the audience for sympathy. They pile on the indiscretions against Papale, making it seem like he is doing something supernaturally impossible in order to achieve his goals. Many things unfold in a series of montages, all set to seventies music and pretty convincing set design and costumes. The rest is due to Wahlberg, who is a good action performer. He still needs to work on some of the softer emotions, and tends to look a bit confused when he needs to look sad.
|Haro Rates It: Okay.|
|1 hour, 48 minutes, Rated PG for sports and some mild language.|
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