Friday, October 19, 2007

The Comebacks


Should’ve Stayed Home

Hoo boy. When I first saw the trailer for the new sports parody, The Comebacks, I laughed. What is more ripe for spoofing than the sports film? It’s a great idea, but my heart sank when I found out the film wasn’t being screened for critics. It’s not that I wasn’t allowed to see it that bugged me, but that I knew I still had to. Then there was the lack of TV advertising, another giant red flag and proof that distributor Fox Atomic had little faith in it. While the movie isn’t quite the turd I was expecting, it still stinks pretty bad.

Coach Lambeau Fields (David Koechner) is terrible at what he does. No matter what team he takes the helm of, they always lose. Still wanting to be a winner, he gets one last try as coach of the Heartland State University Misfits, er Comebacks. Will he be able to finally prove to his dutiful wife (Melora Hardin) and rebellious daughter (Brooke Nevin) that he has what it takes?

The Comebacks wants to lampoon every sports film of late, and so we get references to (in no particlular order) Rocky, Radio, Rudy, Varsity Blues, Coach Carter, Gridiron Gang, Invincible, Blue Crush, Stick It, Dodgeball, Miracle and Hoosiers to name a few. All the cliches are there: The coach coming out of retirement, the troubled player, the big game, the inspirational speech. It follows the Airplane! style of rapid-fire (sometimes crude) slapstick, throwing a gag at you with relentless determination to make you laugh. This is harder than it sounds, because things get tiresome fast if the jokes aren’t hitting.

Sometimes the movie is funny, but it often feels like a redundant high school play. Jokes are executed, but instead of moving on, keep repeating themselves. An example: the quarterback Lance Truman (Matthew Lawrence) can’t seem to hold onto the ball. To help him out, love interest Michelle Fields (Nevin) offers up her body wrapped in a bra with football-shaped cups. He tries to grab it, but misses. That’s funny. The fact that he keeps trying and missing isn’t. The whole movies is like this--it doesn’t know when to stop.

Another problem is that many of the actors seem to know they’re in a “funny” movie. Koechner (Balls of Fury) is waaaaay over the top, chewing scenery like he hasn’t eaten for a week. Most of the actors are the same way, including Carl Weathers (who played Apollo Creed in the first four Rocky films), who really embarrasses himself here. The exception seems to be Brooke Nevin (TV’s The 4400) as Michelle, who plays it straight, and is a pretty good actress. It’d be nice to see her in a film that doesn’t require her to take her shirt off to get screen time.

While The Comebacks does have its moments of stupid charm, it ain’t very good. I went in with zero expectations and was mildly amused, but that’s not what I’d call high praise--just high tolerance.

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