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May 8th, 2006:
Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg
) is an unlucky 30-year old, working as a substitute teacher during the day and as a part-time bartender at night. After he loses both his wife and his teaching job, Papale turns to an unlikely opportunity. When Philadelphia Eagles coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear
) decides to have an open tryout for his professional football team, dozens of hopefuls show up with dreams to make the squad, including Papale, who comes in with no college football experience whatsoever. Miraculously, he is the only person to make the team. As he goes on to play three entire seasons with the Eagles, his inspiring story transforms him into a local hero with the Philadelphia fans.What to Expect:
This amazing story is based on actual events as Papale played for the Eagles from 1976 to 1978. In his first year as a professional football coach, the legendary Dick Vermeil held the open tryouts, hoping to motivate his team in the process. Although the majority of the public considered the stunt a waste of time, a large number of aspiring candidates couldnít resist the opportunity.
Vince Papale graduated from Saint Josephís University in Philadelphia, a school without a football team. He played high school football for only one year, which typically does not constitute sufficient experience. At the age of 30, Papale joined a minor league football team, the Philadelphia Bell, as a wide receiver. His performance helped him earn an invitation to the tryout, which eventually lead to an unlikely career. Papale was the oldest rookie to ever make it onto an NFL lineup as he went on to play for the Eagles for three seasons as a wide receiver and as a member of their special teams. His encouraging story inspired the city, which hailed him as the real Rocky Balboa
and even gave him the nickname. He has since retired and has settled down with a wife, two children, and an executive position at Sallie Mae. Article continues below
Ericson Core will try to ensure that his directorial debut will become the feel-good drama that it looks to be on paper. He comes in with a resume full of cinematography credits, working mostly on action films like The Fast and the Furious and Daredevil. Consequently, he should have no problem in recreating the exciting tension on field, but his lack of experience in general leaves some doubts about how well he will handle the rest of the story. Iím not quite sure what Brain Gannís screenplay will have to offer since this is only his second movie. However, production super-giant Walt Disney Pictures
, which has employed unknowns for similar films in the past, backs the two guys. Disney is likely to have total control over the progress, so the situation is not as alarming as it may seem.
After playing super-fan turned official band member in Rock Star, Mark Wahlberg will play super-fan turned official team member in Invincible. I donít particularly find Wahlberg to be the most dynamic actor, but perhaps his casual demeanor will be appropriate for the role of everyman Papale. Gregg Kinnear (We Were Soldiers, The Matador, Little Miss Sunshine
) bears a physical resemblance to the Dick Vermeil of those days, but since the coach was known for his hot temper at the time, Iím struggling to imagine Kinnear as anything other than warm and friendly. He seems more appropriate for the peewee league, along the lines of his role in Bad News Bears. On the other hand, the Academy Award nominated actor has had such a remarkably balanced career that I donít want to doubt him just yet. Honestly, both actors will probably be upstaged by the momentous story anyway.
The dramatic story in Invincible once again begs me to ask the following question: Is there a more overused film premise than that of the sports underdog? Itís not surprising that studios have opted to return to the same blueprint time and time again following Rocky, but itís unbelievably redundant and predictable to say the least. In the past five years, Disney has bestowed upon us Remember the Titans, The Rookie, Miracle, and the recent Glory Road. They started with a football story in Remember the Titans, went through the other three major sports (baseball, hockey, and basketball respectively), and have come around full circle, right back to football. Cleverly, by jumping between high school, college, and professional levels, they are able to multiply the amount of times each sport can be used by three before being forced to remake the same exact film. The story in The Rookie is of particular interest here since it is essentially identical to Invincible (the inexperienced 30-something rookie, the open tryouts, the surprising success, followed by an inspiring career), with baseball substituting for football. Since the two films are also based on true stories, I cannot blame studio executives entirely for their lack of originality, but why not move into slightly different territory. There is no question that Invincible will probably be an entertaining drama with the ability to pull at the heartstrings at any given moment, but the banality of the premise is to great to ignore. Papaleís fondest memory came during his rookie season when he recovered a fumble during a game against the New York Giants. It appears that the event may play a vital role in the film, which also features Elizabeth Banks
in a made for Holywood role as Papaleís Giants-loving girlfriend.In Conclusion:
In all likelihood, Invincible will be a good, dramatic, escapist treat for all sports fans and for kids who dream of becoming like their heroes one day. There is nothing wrong with that and there is nothing wrong with Disneyís excellent production values either. In fact, when the mood is right, Iíll be right there to check out the film, but itís just too easy to look at Invincible from a very cynical point of view. The filmmakers have set themselves up for it. Truthfully, itís difficult to see any sports movie that doesnít revert back to the same tired formulas and I guess this one is certainly no exception. Thatís a shame. Invincible will definitely find an audience with families, but it will not achieve anything new or remarkable like its main character did.Similar Titles: The Rookie
, Remember the Titans
, Friday Night Lights