Starring: Kevin James, Taylor Lautner, Tait Blue, Jackie Sandler, Rob Schneider, Gary Valentine, Isaiah Mustafa, Lavell Crawford, and Chloe Feinman.
Directed By The Kinnane’s
Where I Watched It: Netflix
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
Description Provided By: Deluxe
Narrated By Jedidiah Barton
The Plot: Based on the true story of the scandal that followed the Super Bowl win of the New Orleans Saints that led to the year long suspension of coach Sean Payton (James) who takes the time off to visit his son Connor (Blum) in Texas, where he is on a football team that is on quite a losing streak. Can this Lombardi winning coach mired in scandal help carry his estranged son’s team to victory?
What Works: How do i approach this? Yes, this is a Happy Madison Netflix collaboration, some of which have not been good, or anything close to good. It stars James, Lautner, and Schneider for crying out loud. On paper, this film seems doomed to fail. I admit that’s part of the reason i waited so long to watch this, because I assumed it was some asinine nonsense. I assumed incorrectly.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not a perfect film either, but it brought me back to the 90’s, when every kids film had a sports angle. Angels In The outfield, Little Big League, Air Bud, The Big Green, The mighty Ducks, Rookie of the Year, and some of those had sequels. Seeing a film about a ragtag group of kids who really aren’t good at the sport, but at least they have fun, being transformed into winners just felt like the bulk of my childhood.
Don’t overthink this film. Just accept that you’re lucky to get a Kevin James film that is actually entertaining and not terrible. In fact, considering his career, this is really close to being his best acting performance ever. Actually being given a real person has pushed James into a more mature performance, despite the trappings around him. He’s much better than you’d expect, and carries the emotional core of the film in this bond he starts to form with his son.
I’m pleasantly surprised. It’s not a perfect film, but I liked it enough to not be ashamed to say that.
What Doesn’t Work: It’s like Happy Madison just can’t shake their dumb tropes even when they are handed a good story like this. Rob Schneider is stupid in this film, as usual. Rather a pointless performance.
It still feels like it’s catering to juvenile adults, with this odd brand of humor that hasn’t worked even for Sandler in years. Maybe back in his peak he pulled off this stuff, but now it just seems tired. And this film could have been so good. it has all the makings of Kevin James’s version of Miracle or Glory Road, or at least The Big Green, but instead they have to interject dumb jokes that don’t land.
The Blind Perspective: Bartlett is one of my favorite narrators. i just heard him do this recent season of Ozark, and he’s terrific. The audio description for this is well done, and captures all of the football plays rather well, maintains an ensemble of kids, and makes sure that when something dumb happens, like projectile vomit, you know about it. Very good work.
Final Thoughts: I went in ready to hate this, and instead, I’m recommending it. It’s not the best Happy Madison film, but it just might be Kevin’s best performance since his semi-serious turn in Here Comes The Boom.
Final Grade: B