The Shocking Truth About '80 for Brady': A Spoiler-Free Review
When this trailer for 80 for Brady dropped in November, I was, to say the least, stunned by what I'd just seen:
I … I just … have no words. I'm struck dumb. As Egon Spengler put it, I'm beyond the capacity for rational thought. But I can't just stop here and call it a blog. So I'll try to rally and finish this thing.
And then went on to question how the movies was made, why it was made, and above all else, what it's target audience was supposed to be? Then over the last week or so, I found out. As 80 for Brady was hitting theaters, I came to find out that the mom of virtually everyone in my life was dying to see it. With the exception of my sons' mom, that is. My own cinephile Irish Rose made it known in no uncertain terms that if I was going to see this dreck, I was going to have to go alone.
To be clear, I had no interest either. That trailer was weapons grade Jerry repellent as far as I was concerned. But then I made the mistake of throwing out a Twitter poll:
And the people had spoken. When 2/3 of 2,748 respondents demand you do a thing, you're obligated to do it or else we've lost our democracy. I do, and do, and do for you kids. And I ask nothing in return.
So I went back to an actual theater for the first time since Top Gun: Maverick. And based on the other people in this suburban theater with me at 4pm on a Thursday, the target demo for this thing is people who were going back to an actual theater for the first time since Singin' in the Rain. The instant I set foot inside, the average age in the room dropped by 25 years. Which wasn't hard to pull off, since there weren't 10 of us total.
What those silver-haired ladies were thinking during the trailers for Cocaine Bear and the next Magic Mike sequel, you'd have to ask them. All I know is they were really excited about watching Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field and Rita Moreno lust after Tom Brady, and I was preparing myself for a good, old fashioned hate watch. In fact, I had the great Roger Ebert line, "It soars above ordinary badness as the eagle outreaches the fly" all read to go as the lead in of this blog. Then the movie began. In opening scene, the four geriatric actresses had already mentioned how much they love "Our Tom" a good dozen times before the credits. And as the words "Produced by Tom Brady" appeared on screen, I was bracing myself for a bizarre, appalling, shameless vanity project. In fact, my sarcastic eyeroll was loud enough that the rest of the audience would've gotten the manager if they'd had their Miracle Ears in.
But in a few minutes came a plot twist more shocking than anything M. Night Shyamalan could come up with on his best day. As the first act unfolded, I came to realize who else is in 80 for Brady's target audience.
Remember the surprise ending of Ratatouille, when the evil restaurant critic Anton Ego has his great epiphany?
To a lesser degree, that was me. I'll come right out and say it: 80 for Brady is a good movie. I mean, let's not put too fine a point on it. It's not Blazing Saddles. No one's going to be hanging around 10 years from now quoting the best lines. But it works. To the point that whoever is responsible for producing a trailer that made it look like such garbage should not only be fired, but pay Brady's studio back the money they got paid for botching the job so badly.
I can't say what I've been saying for years now, that Hollywood is all out of ideas and just keeps churning out the same recycled crap - copies of copies of copies - and not appreciate when someone comes up with something original. Not that a buddy road comedy isn't one of the most common genres in history. It is. But this one has a unique slant on it. Which you have to respect.
First of all, the movie avoids all the shallow, stupid cliched characters you expect from pretty much every movie or TV show now. At least the ones that are made by people who went to film school instead of having actual life experiences and understand how people behave. There isn't that she's the smart one, she's the horny one, she's the dumb innocent and so on. They feel real. They have back stories. We see the people in their lives and how they relate to them. A concerned daughter. A love interest. A dependent, clingy husband. So when funny shit happens, the laughs are earned.
I'll admit I've probably never seen any of the movies any of them have made with the exception of Fields in Mrs. Doubtfire and Forrest Gump. But you tell that they've forgotten more about acting than everyone in the MCU combined will ever know. Granted, you have to not get distracted by Fonda's Guy Fawkes mask face. But the preposterous wig she sports in the trailer is played for laughs, at least. That helps with the suspension of disbelief.
In an odd way, this reminds me of one of the truly great comedies about friendship of the 2000s, 40 Year Old Virgin. Where a group of buddies have different relationships among themselves, and even as they bust each other's balls mercilessly, they're still friends. Like in real life. Which makes the jokes pay off all the better. And like that one, 80 for Brady is absolutely lousy with great supporting actors. The stadium security guys. The girl at the food truck. Cameos by the likes of Retta and Patton Oswald. Harry Hamlin. Andy Richter. Guy Fieri does a credible job playing Guy Fieri. Aside from Brady, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski each get a quick cameo. (I would've given James White his due too, but that's just me.) And best of all, SNL's Alex Moffatt and Rob Corddry, who is from my ancestral homeland of Weymouth, as two Pats fans hosting a sports radio show, steal large chunks of the movie. Like Masshole Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Plus there's a real story going on here, as we find out in the closing credits, which provides the emotional payoff at the end. I won't spoil anything, but we find out as we go along why it's so important for these old grannies to go watch Brady play in Super Bowl LI. And I'm not ashamed to admit I teared up several times. Granted, every one of them was during the football scenes, but that's me. For instance, early on we get a flashback sequence where Adam Vinatieri kicks the game winner against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. And even though that was 21 years ago to the day, I still have a Pavlovian response to it that makes my eyes salivate.
The Super Bowl LI scenes in the third act are nothing short of breathtaking. And worked into the plot brilliantly. Right down to the turning point in the game with the Pats down 28-3 that is ridiculous, idiotic, implausible, and utterly charming, all at the same time. Like I still have goose bumps thinking about it, no matter how ludicrous it was. Again though, the action on the field is incredible. If NFL Films ever releases some of their work in theaters, by all means go. Watching Julian Edelman's catch on a big screen where there's a good two feet between the ball and the turf is an experience not to be missed by anyone who holds that game dear in their hearts.
So yes, I'm shocked to say this, but I truly liked it.. When he makes a sequel to cover Super Bowl LIII, I'll be there for the red carpet event. He'll certainly have the time now. I'll give 80 for Brady a solid B. Which makes it Certified Fresh on Thornton Tomatoes.