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THE COMEBACKS

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: David Koechner, Carl Weathers, Melora Hardin, Brooke Nevin
Director: Tom Brady
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 107 Minutes
Release Date: January 29, 2008

“Crack is whack and white don’t cover black!”

Film ***

This may just be the first and only positive review you read for this movie. The Comebacks was slammed mercilessly by critics and ignored by audiences when it hit theaters. The ads for the movie even gave me little faith in the movie, and had me thinking it was going to be more along the lines of the remarkably awful spoofs Date Movie and Epic Movie.

Then I watched the movie, and laughed a hell of a lot more than I expected to. Let me state right up front that if you’re expecting something revoltingly inane like Epic Movie, you won’t find anything like that in The Comebacks. Despite an awkward scene or two, this spoof movie actually has real laughs and the writers behind it know how to structure the jokes, something writer/directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer can’t seem to accomplish (by now I shouldn’t have to mention what two movies they were responsible for).

The movie already has one thing going for in that the genre being targeted this time is the inspirational sports movie, which hasn’t really been parodied yet. Coach Lambeau Fields (David Koechner) is your average washed up coach you see in almost all sports movies, except he also happens to be the worst coach in the history of sports. In the first scene of the movie, it is revealed that Coach Fields, then manager of the Red Sox, was responsible for Bill Buckner’s humiliating incident during the World Series, when he distracted Buckner by asking a crossword puzzle question from the dugout.

When Fields, down on his luck and working the worst possible job at a country club, is approached by his long time coaching partner, Freddie Wiseman (Carl Weathers) with a life-changing job offer, to coach a team of rag-tag bunch of misfits at a small college in Texas. From this point, you can practically name the many sports movies that will be lampooned. And those movies are lampooned, and to a massive funny effect.

But what is surprising about The Comebacks is the way certain movies are spoofed. For once, scenes from the movies being spoofed aren’t just replayed, with actors winking at the camera and thinking they’re funny in the process (write that down Friedberg and Seltzer). Instead, a good many scenes take the scenarios from sports movies and apply fresh approaches with the spoofing. The best example is how the movie lampoons Remember the Titans, which had me laughing hysterically.

And this part of the movie was just plain genius to me. One of the team’s star players is named Aseel Tare (Robert Ri’chard), whose name Coach Fields keeps mispronouncing as ACL Tear. And you know that in every sports movie, the star player always suffers a huge injury. It happens here, of course, but the sight gag involving the injury is classic. I find it impossible for anyone to not bust his or her gut laughing at this scene.

Just about every football movie is targeted in the movie. You’ll get scenes parodying the likes of Friday Night Lights, Invincible, Radio, Varsity Blues, The Longest Yard and Rudy. And there are even bonus spoofs of Dodgeball, Blue Crush, Bend It Like Beckham, Stick It, Miracle, Drumline, Rocky and a hilarious bit targeting Coach Carter, only here instead of asking his players to make A’s and B’s in their academics, Coach Fields demands that his team make D’s and F’s. When they continue to make excellent grades, he cancels practice.

There laughs are more hits than misses, which is more than I can say for Epic and Date Movie combined. The only awkward moment is a musical performance of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”, which feels sort of tacked on. And the first half of the movie seems to be funnier and more energetic than the second half, but altogether the movie is a most satisfying laugh riot.

BONUS: Will Arnett and Dax Shepard have funny cameos as crazy townsfolk threatening to kill the coach.

Video ***1/2

The anamorphic presentation from Fox is high grade and exceptional quality. Image quality is bright, clear and crisp, with a tremendous appearance of color tones. Some slight grain in a scene or two, but nothing distracting in the slightest.

Audio ***

Being a spoof of football movies, you can expect a lot of bone-crunching physical comedy in the movie, and the 5.1 mix does deliver a good bit in that regard. Music playback and dialogue delivery are exceptionally well delivered too.

Features ***

This Fox release includes some good extras in the end zone. Starting things off is a commentary from director Tom Brady (not the Patriots QB, of course), Deleted Scenes, and multiple featurettes, including “A Laugh of Their Own”, “Heartland Hotties vs. Lone Star Naughties”, “The Karaoke Kid”, “Coach Koechner”, “Million-Dollar Booty”, “The Mighty Dicks” and “Razor Blades of Glory”, many of which are quite brief. Also included are Bonus Previews and a look at a MySpace Contest Winner.

Summary:

I was surprised by how much I laughed during The Comebacks. It has actually restored my faith in the spoof movie genre. It’s not a classic spoof movie, but it’s a well-executed one and more than a step up from a couple of atrocious spoof movies that I’ll leave nameless, though you know what I’m referring to.

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