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INVINCIBLE

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Mark Wahlberg, Greg Kinnear, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Rispoli
Director:  Ericson Core
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  104 Minutes
Release Date:  December 19, 2006

“Do you mind if I ask how old you are?”

“Not at all…do you mind if I ask how old YOU are?”

Film ***

Sports movies are amongst the most formulaic, but it also occurred to me while watching Invincible that there’s a reason for that: the formula works.

Inspired by the true story of Vince Papale, Invincible really holds no surprises, even if you aren’t familiar with the Philadelphia athlete’s story.  The movie made me think of other films like Rocky and Rudy, and not just because of the one-word title.  It’s because we’ve seen the underdog-makes-good story more times than we can ever count.  The question is simply whether or not it’s done well.

This movie IS.  Sure, I could list some faults, like lack of any true character development, or my inability to recall even one character’s name apart from the main two (I even had to check at the end when it mentioned Vince went on to marry his sweetheart that yes, the girl seen in the film was the same girl).  But I’d rather talk about how much fun the movie is, and how inspiring, and how the tried and true formula was played to near perfection.

It stars Mark Wahlberg as Vince, a 30 year old part time bartender and substitute teacher in Philly.  Like many, he struggles to get by, and has his share of problems, from a car that barely runs to money to his wife leaving him.  His only real outlet is playing rough and tough football with his friends, where, despite never playing college ball and only one year of it in high school, he’s the undisputed star.

The Philadelphia Eagles were going through a rough patch of their own…after a humiliating losing season, the team takes a chance on young UCLA coach Dick Vermeil (Kinnear), who has an idea to invigorate the team and the fans:  open tryouts.  Soon, Vince’s friends are convincing him to take his shot.  What does he have to lose?

The rest of the story is how Vince chases his elusive dream…the work, the practice, the dedication…and how it all pays off when Vermeil decides to take a chance on the nobody and let him don the uniform.  It really is a helluva story.

Wahlberg was a perfect choice for the role.  Not only is he a more than competent actor, he brings the right physicality to the part…you can actually believe he knows what he’s doing on the gridiron. 

None of the tricks are missed, from the slow-motion action on the football field to the training sequences, from the cheers to the disappointments.  There’s even a shot of Vince running through the streets of Philly to get in shape.  Yo Adrian, anyone?

Even the end credits are faithful to tell us what happened next in everyone’s lives, but being a Disney film, emphasizing the positive.  Yes, Vermeil did lead the Eagles to the Superbowl in 1980, but somehow it wasn’t proper to mention they got manhandled by the Raiders in a game I remember very well.

Invincible takes no risks, but its timidity pays off in a film that is thoroughly entertaining and will have you clapping your hands with glee more than a few times.  Vince’s story deserves to be remembered, because it’s all about talent plus preparation meeting opportunity…the embodiment of the American dream.

Video ***

The anamorphic transfer is sharp and clear throughout…many shots are filtered to emphasize the yellows; I presume to give it a more authentic 70s look.  I didn’t care for the choice much; yellow isn’t as easy on the eyes as other colors.  But images are well rendered and I noticed no bleeding, softness or artifacts.

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 audio is a real treat, with plenty of football action and crowd noise to get your surrounds suited up and into the game.  Especially nice is the near-constant stream of great 70s classics.  I could listen to those all day.

Features **1/2

The real Vince is around for the extras…a featurette on him and the making of the movie will take you up close and personal with the one-time Eagles phenom, and he also appears on one of the commentary tracks with the producer and the writer.  A second commentary track features director Ericson Core and his editor.

Summary:

You’ve seen it all before, but so what?  Disney knows how to make a true life sports story entertaining, and Invincible is like a slightly different take on an old familiar song that you never get tired of.

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