Plot: What’s it about?
We all know that Keanu Reeves isn’t the greatest actor in the world. But he has made quite a career out of choosing roles that he’s good at, and suit his personality (Point Break, Speed). And with the success of The Matrix, he’s basically free and clear to do any movie he pleases. Sports movies have come a long way in the past 15 years or so, with movies like Major League, Caddyshack, Tin Cup, Necessary Roughness and others all finding a place in most everyone’s collection. Which brings us to The Replacements. Described as “a gridiron Major League“, the movie plays just like it. Of course, when a new football movie comes out, it’s instantly compared to all the others out there, but I think this one will hold up. While the plot is very predictable, it’s clear that the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and they’re not afraid to have some fun. According to the featurette, a trainer says “if a football movie is a comedy, let the comedy work and let the football be real…the comedy will take care of itself”. It does. The Replacements is not only one of the funnier movies I’ve seen in a while, it’s got a pretty talented cast with Reeves and Gene Hackman.
Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves) was a Quarterback for Ohio State that he led into a humiliating defeat in the 1996 Sugar Bowl (a reference they use almost too much and which Falco finally replies “…didn’t anyone have anything better to do that day?”). Now he makes his living in Washington D.C. by scraping the crud off the bottom of other people’s boats. Not exactly your dream job. In the midst of a professional football players strike, the entire league walks out and the teams are replaced with replacement players (get that). Falco is among the players sought out to play for the Washington Sentinels by coach Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman). Wanting complete control of his new team, the replacement team has to win three of the last four games to make it into the playoffs. Now, here is where the movie could have taken a turn for the worse, where none of the players had any ability and then they all formed into a winning unit, yada, yada, yada…it doesn’t. All of the replacement players have had previous football experience either in the professional, collegiate or high school level, so while they’re not multi-million dollar players, they do know what to do.
The replacement players, immediately labeled as “scabs” are not met kindly by the fans or the players currently on strike. Falco has his truck tipped over a few times before some of the more “colorful” players finally put an end to that (words can’t describe it). The team seems to work, as does the comic timing of one Orlando Jones who plays a receiver who can’t seem to ever catch the ball. Jones is probably best known for his 7-UP commercials “Make 7, Up Yours”, and his comedy makes the movie all the more interesting to watch. As with most every other movie of this genre, there is a love interest subplot between Falco and the head cheerleader, Annabelle (Brooke Langton) who supposedly doesn’t date football players. Ultimately, the movie is very rewarding. I found myself laughing out loud several times as some of the scenes were just too funny. Look for a psychotic Jon Faverau as well.
Video: How does it look?
It’s been nearly 15 years since I saw this film and I have to admit that it looks pretty good on Blu-ray. The 1.85:1 AVC HD encode brings some life to the film with the green of the grass, the orange in the uniforms and the detail in the actors’ faces. I’d forgotten how bright and colorful this film actually was, and I suppose all football films can be. Detail has been improved since the original DVD and while not perfect (there are some scenes with excessive grain), it’s a good overall upgrade to the DVD.
Audio: How does it sound?
Football films can really utilize your speakers in the best possible ways, but with The Replacements being a comedy, it’s a bit on the light-hearted side. Aside from the many times that you hear Diana Ross’ “I Will Survive”, the soundtrack radiates out of the other channels. Dialogue is clean and free of any distortion, but I did notice that it was drowned out by the soundtrack a few times. The upgraded DTS HD Master Audio scores.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – I was a bit disappointed by the track, as the movie was fast-paced and funny, there seemed to be a number of gaps where he would just sit there and not say anything. While I learned a few things from the track, I can say that you’ll have a lot more fun by watching just the movie.
- Making the Plays: An Actor’s Guide to Football – A look at how the players got adjusted to being in a football movie, as well as how the football players got a little acting experience. Interviews with the trainers (who also had small parts in the movie) told how they got into shape for the parts and who did what stunts. What interested me was the fact that they wanted Keanu Reeves to try out for the Baltimore Ravens. They kept commenting on how good a quarterback he was…maybe he has found something here with his Johnny Utah/Shane Falco characters?
- The Making of The Replacements – This seems to have been renamed as it was entitled “HBO’s First Look: The Replacements” on the DVD. Still, the content is the same and is hosted by none other than…you guessed it, Orlando Jones. It’s basically like most of the featureless we’ve seen, but a nice touch if you want to get a little more out of the movie.
- Theatrical Trailer