Your team has to win three of the next four games to make it to the
playoffs ... and the players have just gone on strike. What do you do?
Replacements" says it all. A ragtag team of wannabes and has-beens is
assembled by veteran coach Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman) to fill in for the
picketing members of the Washington Sentinels. As you would expect,
there's a little bit of everything on this menagerie of misfits: a sumo
wrestler, a born-again Christian, a cop, a prisoner (whose warden
conveniently grants him temporary parole), a chain-smoking soccer player
and a deaf guy. Leading the pack is Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves), a
barnacle-busting, bowl-blowing quarterback who's given a chance to redeem
himself. You have three guesses at how it all turns out and the first two
don't count. But while the cheese threat looms throughout, scribe Vince McKewin ("Fly Away Home") successfully navigates a minefield of clichés
and scores a sincere albeit predictable touchdown.
With a pair of Oscars in his locker, Hackman is a brow-raising but
much-appreciated addition to this team. Though his character is
one-dimensional, his mere presence elevates the picture and lends it
credibility at critical moments, such as when McGinty goes head-to-head
with the team's owner (Jack Warden) over the fate of Falco. Reeves is
affable as always, and the 25 pounds he put on for the role really shows.
But the best performances belong to Brett Cullen, who plays the Sentinels'
arrogant regular quarterback, and Jon Favreau, an overzealous attack dog
on the field.
Howard Deutch ("Pretty in Pink," "Grumpier Old Men") delivers a
football movie that should appeal to football fans and nonfans alike. The
many scenes set on the gridiron are lively, witty and fast-moving. His
emphasis here is not on the play of the game, but rather the game of the
players. Despite the number of them, the team members are easily
identified by their idiosyncrasies. There's very little character
development ... it's simply not needed here. At no point does Deutch take
this story or his subjects too seriously, and just when you think you've
seen this play before, he calls a time out.
Keanu wins one for the Gipper.