by Andrew James
If you're not into football, this may not be your thing. If you're not into watching Mark Wahlberg run in slow motion for a total of about 35 minutes, this may not be your thing. If you like to watch the local kid make good and inspire a city, his friends and his family (ala Rocky), this is right up your alley.
Invincible is the true story of Vince Papale (Wahlberg), a 30 year old, down on his luck bartender who shows up when open tryouts are announced for the Philadelphia Eagles. Dick Vermiel, played by the always adequate Greg Kinnear, is the rookie NFL coach hired by the owners to turn the spiraling franchise around - straight off a Rosebowl championship with the UCLA Bruins. Vince surprises everyone; including himself.
If there's a certain amount of cheese to this movie, that's okay; there always is with this kind of film. The heart to heart chat with Pop, the drunk friend trying to talk serious sense, the bartender with a heart and of course, the girl. A romance is blossoming aside the football career of Parpale. It's easy to see all of these things coming and the director knows we don't really care all that much, so it's just a couple of quiet scenes to rest up our nerves before the hard hits on the grid-iron start up again. It's also effective at getting the audience revved up, excited for and even caring about our main character.
Wahlberg and Kinnear do a decent job with their roles. They always do. But there really isn't much complexity in these characters to really develop into anything ultra-special. They're just a couple of guys doing their job... and they do it well. All of the supporting cast is excellent. Especially Vermiel's wife and two of Parpale's friends in particular: Johnny the pessimist and Tommy, the always supportive best bud.
I think my favorite part about the film though, is the 1970's, South Philly setting. The narrow alleys, buildings and cars all make for great viewing pleasure. I happen to always enjoy a good 70's "period" piece, and Invincible pulls it off well.
The football scenes are all well put together; and when I mentioned hard hits before, I meant just that - HARD hits. These guys take some real beatings on the field and the director lets us feel every crunch and smack-down. Glorious. The technique isn't really anything we haven't seen before in countless other football movies, but it's captured effectively and at times, dizzyingly.
So strap on your shulder pads and cleats and get ready for some fun. Yes, it's basically a movie we've seen hundreds of times before, but for some reason, at least for me, they never get old. It's a feel good movie that takes place at a time when everything didn't always feel so good. It might not make AFI's top inspirational films and certainly won't see any nods at the academy, but it'll see lots of nods from sports fans and lovers of the genre. You may even find a cheering section in your particular theater; I did.
IMDb.com - full cast and crew
Official Site - includes trailer and goodies
FLIXSTER PROFILE for Invincible