August 28, 2006

Very, Very Vulnerable

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Honestly, Walt Disney must be rolling over in his grave. Or in his cryogenic chamber deep beneath Disney World, frozen in a state of suspended animation. Take your pick. The bottom line is Michael Eisner and Disney have descended to new depths with their latest evil scheme to rob hardworking Americans of their hard-earned money. I’m not referring to previews of Brother Bear 2 that were brought to my attention by my five year-old sister. I’m talking about the recent onslaught of underdog sports movies that makes even me, a fan who imbibes ESPN on an unending 24 hour a day basis, sick to my proverbial stomach.
Disney’s latest successor to Glory Road, Remember the Titans, Miracle, The Greatest Game Ever Played and The Rookie comes in the form of Invincible. The film, “based on a true story that we took enormous liberties with”, stars Mark Wahlberg as 30 year-old Philadelphia bartender Vince Papale, who like the rest of Philadelphia during the 1970s, is a man who’s down on his luck (in Philly’s case a slump that doesn’t seem to have quite yet ended). His wife leaves him, business is down thanks to the Carter-era oil embargo energy crisis and stagflation (not really, but I had to find a way to work that last word in), and of course, the hometown Eagles are the laughingstock of the entire league.
Enter new head coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear), a bigtime believer of “Garbage In, Garbage Out”, so much so that he decides to hold open tryouts. Naturally, everyone and their mother decides to try out for a chance to play in the No Fun League and our hero Papale is no excetion. It just so happens that he moonlights as the superstar of his crew’s pickup football games.
What happens next shouldn’t exactly come as a shock. Papale walks on to the team and from there, the filmmakers decided to bypass reality and have the entire team ride their 30-something rookie to some semblance of success.
The plot certainly rings a few bells, especially since it happens to be more or less the same as the storyline of The Rookie. The good news is that insead of a flamethrowing Dennis Quaid, we the audience are treated to a football-playing Mark Wahlberg sporting a Dirk Diggler hairdo. Or is that the bad news?
For anyone who’s seen Boogie Nights, you’d be inclined to think that casting Wahlberg was a good idea since he’s the prototypical Average Homeboy (if you don’t know what I mean, two words: Google it). For anyone who’s seen any of Wahlberg’s other movies, however, like Rock Star or Planet of the Apes, it’s nothing but bad news. His character is wildly unbelievable, from his ridiculous, aforementioned hairstyle to his ability to land the likes of equally unrealistic sports-loving hottie Janet (Elizabeth Banks). Not to be blunt or anything, but simply put, Wahlberg can’t act. And tha’ts totally ignoring the fact taht neither he nor his bionic  stunt double can play football.
You have to hand it to the Disney execs however. The idea of taking every middle-aged  man’s dream and capitalize on it was pure genius (and extremely lucrative to boot). Sure, aside from Papale, the rest of the football scenes seem authentic, but at times, the film feels almost downright patronizing. Director Ercison Core (what a name) does a good job of romanticizing gritty blue-collar Philly way past the point of dead horse status and there’s really anything remarkable about this movie. Unless you like completely annihilating your free time, don’t even bother renting this movie. If you’re looking for an underdog movie to pick you up, I’d suggest Rudy or Rocky instead.