Friday, August 10, 2012

Invincible (2006) [PG] ****

Set in Philadelphia in 1976, Invincible is the uplifting, heart-warming story of Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg), a 30-year-old substitute teacher and part-time bartender whose life spirals downward after he loses his summer school teaching position, and his wife of five years leaves him, taking all the furniture with her. All Vince has left is his group of neighborhood pals, with whom he plays rough-and-tumble touch football, and his bartending job for his pal Max (Michael Rispoli).

Then the desperate Philadelphia Eagles football team, on a downward spiral of its own, hires UCLA football coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) as the new head coach, and in a publicity stunt Vermeil stages an open tryout one summer Saturday morning. Along with hundreds of other hopefuls, Vince shows up and, against all odds, he gets invited to training camp, and with it, a shot at making the team. At the same time Max hires his niece Janet (Elizabeth Banks), and while both Vince and Janet have recently been scarred by love, and seem unwilling to take a chance, a tentative romance does blossom between them. During training camp, Vince endures the resentment of teammates with collegiate and professional football experience. However, he's a player with whom the football fans of South Philadelphia can relate, and he ends up raising the spirits of a city depressed by a losing football team as well as by factory closures and rising unemployment. 

While the story is formulaic, the dialogue is clichéd, and the soundtrack of ‘70s tunes is completely forgettable, we find ourselves cheering for Vince, mainly because of Mark Wahlberg’s ability to create a likable, intensely hardworking character.

Although the film implies that Vince had no football experience after high school, the truth is that he played on the Aston Green Knights of the semi-pro Seaboard Football League, and following that he played two seasons for the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League as a wide receiver, as well as a standout on the special teams. It was his performance with the Philadelphia Bell that earned Vince an invitation to a private workout held by Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Dick Vermeil in 1976 and, following that, an invitation to join the team.

Regardless of the artistic license taken by screenwriter Brad Gann with Vince Papele’s life and career, if you enjoy uplifting sports stories, films like The Blind Side, Miracle, Remember the Titans and The Rookie, you won’t want to miss Invincible

Labels: biography, drama, football

Internet Movie Database
Metacritic 63/100
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=64, viewers=72)
Wikipedia: Vince Papale  
Facebook: Vince Papale  

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