Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Invincible – Movie Review

Invincible is inspired by the real life story of Vince Papale who was a down-and-out 30 year old in South Philly who was plucked from the neighbourhood to join the desperate Philadelphia Eagles football team and become a success. Yes, you have heard this story many times before (like the terrific The Rookie only football instead of baseball this time), and yes, this is also a Disney movie as part of their Sports Cinderella stories series (an enjoyable Remember The Titans or the cloying Miracle).

What we get this time is Mark Wahlberg (as Vince Papale) back in full 70’s get up and hair only this time much more sanitized than Boogie Nights. It IS a Disney movie under the Walt Disney label so there’s not a single curse word. All of this of course is to point out that this was made to be a family film for the masses with a predictable and clichéd story that has been told hundreds of times before (probably my favourite being Pretty Woman, another Disney venture).

Basically? This movie should have been crap, and in fact, I think we all expected it to be complete crap. It was however in fact, quite good. Not just quite good, but very good. Much like its protagonist, the movie works very hard to break out of its mold and through sweat, tears and enormous heart, is able to transcend its pigeonhole to become something greater than its expectations. I even got a little teary in that moment you all wait for in these Cinderella type stories.

The excellent cast, including Mark, Greg Kinnear (looking quite… fetching?... in his full shaggadelic 70’s do), Elizabeth Banks (so terrifically underated and hopefully on the break to becoming a bigger star), and Kirk Acevedo amongst many of a lesser known supporting cast, do terrific jobs working their magic on a simple story. There’s an attempt to grittify the usual glossified Disney telling of these Cinderella stories, and the attempt is noble and somewhat successful.

Sepia tones flesh out the grittiness, but also add some nostalgic romanticisms to the 70’s tale. The sets seem sometimes a little too clean for South Philly. Handhelds are sometimes overused to project the rumbleness of it all but when you’re filming tackle football, the added jitteriness is not needed. Still, Ericson Core directs the film with a definite confidence, having been cinematographer on Fast and the Furious and Daredevil, and seems to get most of the emotions right, considering the basic story premise. A few too many laughable slow mos of Mark Wahlberg running, and yet somehow the movie has worked hard enough at that point that you sort of accept it and it’s made to work.

There is nothing groundbreaking about the film, whose heart is truly in the men who live and die based on the dreams of their heroes. The friends, father and neighbour sees Vince as their chance to shine some optimistic light into their lower class neighbourhood. Elizabeth Banks' Janet is the prize for Vince’s hard work and redemption of a hard-knock past life of failures. Invincible (sort of a horrible name for the movie although it has just been pointed out to me by my sister that it probably alludes to InVINCEable... I get it now...) is a well made film of a very simple tale, and if nothing else, will at least make you smile for just a bit.


Grade: B

I'm still trying to figure out what system I like better...

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