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The Replacements

If you're looking for a good football movie, check out Brian's Song, North Dallas Forty, or the recent Oliver Stone film Any Given Sunday. But if you're looking for mindless entertainment that happens to have a football theme, then The Replacements isn't a bad choice. Directed by Howard Deutsch (Grumpier Old Men, Pretty in Pink), The Replacements is a gridiron comedy inspired by the 1987 NFL strike. In this version, when the overpaid players for the fictional franchise the Washington Sentinels walk out, team owner O'Neil (Jack Warden) hires ex-coach McGinty (Gene Hackman) to hire second-chance replacements to finish out the season. Looking for a second chance himself, McGinty decides to hire a bunch of wannabes and has-beens who each have a special skill, in the hope that they will somehow come together to form a functional, even winning, team. Key among this group of misfits is quarterback Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves), an up-and-coming player who lost his shot at the big time when he choked during a high-profile Sugar Bowl. Falco is cynical and not much interested in the prospect of failing again (when McGinty asks Falco, "You know what separates the winners from the losers, kid?" his field general quickly retorts, "The score.") But McGinty wouldn't be much of a coach if he didn't know how to motivate a player, and he gets Falco to sign on. The rest of the cast in The Replacements includes Notting Hill's Rhys Ifans as the "wiry" soccer player who can kick a ball the length of the field while smoking a cigarette; the amusing Orlando Jones, whose speed far surpasses his catching skills; and Jon Favreau as an out-of-control former SWAT team officer who will tackle anything that moves — even his own teammates. Added to the mix is the inevitable love story, supplied by the fetching cheerleader Annabelle (Brooke Langton), who doesn't date players but can't keep from falling for the sincere and unspoiled Falco. The overall result is a fun film that doesn't stay with you for long, but nonetheless provides an entertaining diversion while it lasts, and John Debney's rock-themed soundtrack, although not as smoothly paced as it could be, is lively and engaging. Warner's DVD edition of The Replacements features a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with audio in DD 5.1, and features include two behind-the-scenes documentaries. One of them, created for HBO and hosted by Orlando Jones, keeps with the light-hearted spirit of the film, while the second, Making the Plays: An Actor's Guide to Football, uses much of the same footage as the first documentary but emphasizes the lengths the filmmakers went to in order to make the pigskin action as real as possible. A commentary track by director Deutsch offers some interesting (if not very profound) insights. Snap-case.
—Kerry Fall

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