In 1993, Walt Disney Pictures released Cool Runnings, a film chronicling the true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team competing at the 1988 Winter Olympics. The film was huge hit, and even though nothing came out of it immediately, it was a foreshadowing of things to come. Indeed, when the studio’s Remember The Titans, an american football film also based on a true story came out seven years later and made more box-office gold, Disney understood they had a foolproof formula in their hands, releasing no less than five inspirational sports movies based on true stories in five years, Invincible being the last so far.
Set in 1976 as new coach Dick Vermeil takes over the crappy Philadelphia Eagles football team, Invicible relates the tale of Vince Papale, a 30 year old bartender/part-time teacher who went on to play for the Eagles through three NFL seasons after his wife left him, despite having no college football experience.
Invincible marks the first feature directing effort for cinematographer Ericson Core (Daredevil) and the first produced script by Brad Gann (Black Irish). The film stars Mark Wahlberg (The Happening), Greg Kinnear (Baby Mama), Elizabeth Banks (Meet Dave) and Michael Nouri (The O.C.) among others. Trailer and review after the jump.
Critics of Invincible have called out the film for its lack of originality, and nothing much can be said there, as it brings absolutely nothing new to the genre. But sports movies are, in a way, like romantic comedies or martial arts tournament movies: you don’t watch them to be blown away by the story. If the film turns out to be something more than you expect, then that’s great, but nine times out of ten you can predict how the whole thing will pan out. The team wins a game, the guy and the girl get together, the hero wins the tournament, etc…
We know this and yet such films continue to get made on a regular basis and we still go watch them, why? It’s not because we’re dumb let me reassure you, it’s just that these films have a basic, classic structure that simply appeals to our nature. We don’t mind that we’ve seen it already, the point of such movies is not their originality. All that we really ask of them is that they’re well-made, and Invincible certainly is.
It’s not the best sports movie ever made, not even the best american football movie, but that doesn’t stop it from being very effective. Ericson Core, who does the cinematography himself (surprisingly rare amongst DOPs-turned-director), offers some really tasteful filming and pacing, with the token “revelation moment”, a muddy, rainy football game played by Vince and his South Philly buddies being quite a standout. The soundtrack is also a strong point of the film, the songs being perfectly chosen.
Ultimately, if I had anything bad to say about Invincible it’d be that despite the songs and a TV anchor’s haircut, it really doesn’t feel like the seventies. The film could have been set in the present day and you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. But this, along with the few liberties Brad Gann took with Papale’s story don’t actually matter as they don’t deter your enjoyment of the film. Ultimately, Invincible is a fine, easily enjoyable film. Here’s hoping Disney keeps making sports films despite their last ones not being as financially successful as their earlier efforts.