‘80 for Brady’ Review: Remember These Titans
This stubbornly charming romp starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Rita Moreno is inspired by the story of a real group of female friends with a love for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
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By Amy Nicholson
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Tom Brady, the oldest starting quarterback in N.F.L. history, has said he is retiring “for good” at the age of 45. But at a combined age of 335, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Rita Moreno muscle “80 for Brady,” a comedy about a fan club’s frenetic Super Bowl weekend, over the goal line. The setup is that Lou (Tomlin), who is living with cancer, is adamant that she and her besties will attend a Super Bowl before she returns an urgent message from her oncologist. Betty (Field), a math professor, calculates that they have a .0013% chance of winning a call-in contest to see the 2017 showdown between Brady’s New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. But wish fulfillment is in their favor, as is the director Kyle Marvin’s choice to treat obstacles like breakaway paper banners to be torn through by its winning team.
This stubbornly charming romp is, quite literally, fan fiction inspired by a group of female friends from North Attleborough, Mass., one of whom had a grandson with the Hollywood connections to pitch their story to Tom Brady’s film production company. Brady serves as one of the movie’s producers, as well as its motivational mascot. In times of need, he pops up as a talking bobblehead who whispers advice, while flashbacks to the game itself hail that year’s victory as one of football’s most memorable comebacks.
Predictability doesn’t scare the screenwriters Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern, who collaborated previously as writers of “Booksmart.” Their script is a barrage of quirky one-liners that punch up familiar set pieces like an accidental drug bender, a hot wings-eating contest, and a high-stakes card game. It gambles, correctly, that the veteran cast can convince the audience to play along with outlandish contrivances — including an assurance that four seniors in loudly bedazzled jerseys can, when needed, sneak around like ninjas.
The benefit of leads with decades of personal chemistry, plus the classic studio ingénue training to hoof it through corny material, is that Marvin is freed up to lavish attention on his bit players. Even brief parts like a book store clerk or an underpaid worker at a carnival game earn solid snickers from just a sentence or two of dialogue. The only thankless role goes to Sara Gilbert as the daughter tasked to nag Tomlin’s character about her health; Gilbert’s stuck in reality while everyone else is doing jazz hands with Gugu (Billy Porter), the halftime choreographer.
Instead, the more absurd the gag, the better it works. As Trish, a lovelorn author of Rob Gronkowski erotica (sample title: “Between a Gronk and a Hard Place”), Fonda finds herself selecting the perfect Barbarella blonde wig for a romance with a debonair jock played by Harry Hamlin. Moreno’s Maura, a widow with a flair for bold jackets, stumbles into a room steeling herself for an orgy only to find a poker table of Guy Fieri clones, a mesmerizing image destined to be painted on velvet and mounted over a plate of nachos. We’re so pleasantly pummeled by silliness that the film comes to feel like a massage. As soon as I roused myself to wonder if the friends would wind up on a Jumbotron, there they were, grinning for the camera. I grinned back.
80 for Brady
Rated PG-13 for drug use and suggestive references to Rob Gronkowski. Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes. In theaters.
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