Films

Slapstick scrimmage

Brian D. Johnson August 21 2000
Films

Slapstick scrimmage

Brian D. Johnson August 21 2000

Slapstick scrimmage

Films

The Replacements

Directed by Howard Deutch

It’s hard to say what the main attraction is. Perhaps it’s the prospect of seeing Keanu Reeves, dude of Zen non-acting, throw a perfect spiral. Or watching Gene Hackman shake off the scripts clichés like bad tackles.

Whatever the rationale behind The Replacements, the movie is a lot like the team—stupid, shambling and grossly uneven, but more entertaining than it has

any right to be. It’s like a replacement movie, one that will have to do until the real thing comes along.

The unlikely premise has a legendary Washington coach (Hackman) recruit a

scab football team during a strike on the eve of the playoffs. Their ranks include a sumo wrestler, a butterfingered shop-

lifter, a chain-smoking Welsh placekicker—and quarterback Shane Falco

(Reeves), a has-been who makes his living scraping barnacles off boats.

Director Howard Deutch (Pretty in Pink) works from a playbook of formula shlock. Like a passer scrambling for daylight, wondering whether to throw or run, he zigzags between rude farce and inspirational romance. But there are a few surprises in this drunken sports bar of a movie. The wall-to-wall sound track features some eccentric choices, including forgotten tracks from The Rolling Stones’ Voodoo Lounge. And as the shy hero, Reeves plays his role so straight that, amid the slapstick scrimmage, he almost seems like a serious actor.

As his love interest, Brooke Langton (Melrose Place) squeezes extra yardage from a thankless role—as a head cheerleader who drafts her squad from the local strip joint. Her seduction scene with Reeves is remarkably subde. But to appreciate this touching time-out, and the movie’s other mongrel charms, you have to put your head down and endure a fair amount of vomit in the huddle.

Brian D. Johnson