Invincible (2006) / Drama
MPAA Rated: PG for some mild language
Running Time: 105 min.
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Greg Kinnear, Elizabeth Banks, Kevin Conway, Paige Turco, Michael Rispoli, Kirk Acevedo, Dov Davidoff, Michael Kelly, Sal Darigo, Nicoye Banks, Turon Koi Alleyne, Stink Fisher, Michael Nouri, Lola Glaudini
Director: Ericson Core
Screenplay: Brad Gann
In 1976, in the streets of South Philly, filming was still going on for the uplifting sports saga that would capture the Best Picture Oscar, Rocky. That same year, in that same part of the same city, a real-life inspirational sports legend would also emerge, only the sport would be different. In fact, the subject of Invincible would earn the nickname of "Rocky" from his teammates for his inspiring story of making it to the pinnacle from out of nowhere in Philadelphia.
Although Vince Papale is a real person with a real story, as has been the custom with movies, much of what you see in Invincible is heavily embellished. Papale didn't have a college football career, and only one year of high school ball, but he did play professional football for a couple of years in the short-lived WFL (World Football League) not long before trying out for the Philadelphia Eagles under new coach Dick Vermeil. Prior to this, he was working to make ends meet as a bartender and substitute teacher, but at 30-years-old, he was unlikely to make the final cut of the Eagles roster after the open tryout the Eagles held in the city. He wasn't the flashiest athlete, but he did have heart, which is something the team desperately needed after several years of playing sub par football.
In terms of professional football careers, perhaps Papale's doesn't quite merit making a movie of, as he never did much more than play special teams and catch one pass as a wide receiver. However, he did make the show, which is the angle the film takes for its inspirational story. In many ways, the film closely resembles that of another Disney sport film from 2002, The Rookie, which as produced by the some of the same people.
Mark Wahlberg (Four Brothers, I Heart Huckabees) does a fine job in a very physical performance, despite not looking much like Papale. He's also six inches shorter and about five years older than the age Papale should be in the film. However, he is probably still the best part of the film, with Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine, Bad News Bears) lending not much more than name recognition to his not-terribly-demanding role as coach Dick Vermeil. The rest of the cast is acceptable, although the characters themselves often encroach into annoyance, with football-obsessed friends (the stereotypical blue collar bunch) and unhelpful teammates, seemingly drawn up to lend extra weight and drama to the tale.
Invincible is par for the course as far as sports films go, and worth a recommendation if you like football stories, or just ones about underdogs. If there is anything that did bother me a little, other than the Hollywood-ization of the story, it's the way the film looks. Some of the football action is enhanced by computer graphics and special effects, which do take you out of the moment at times. All of the televisions in the film appeared to have some sort of weird coating, as if someone smeared Clearasil all over the screens. I'm guessing it's to make them appear like they have more static due to the antenna reception, but it looked very artificial. Also, many scenes, especially outdoors, are given some sort of amber hue, perhaps to look more 70s-ish. Speaking of making the film 70s, one of my pet peeves for movies set in the past is the incessant need to keep the soundtrack constantly pumping with hit tunes of the times, and Invincible is one of he worst offenders of this.
Invincible has its share of flaws, but it will probably hold the interest of most potential viewers, especially for fans of the Philadelphia Eagles, and of Papale especially. It's typical Hollywood by-the-numbers filmmaking, but hits enough of the right notes at the right times to fulfill its role as a feel-good story of one average guy with the heart to make it big.
©2006 Vince Leo