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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

80 For Brady: Review

Four best friends in their golden years embrace life to the fullest by embarking on a quest to see Tom Brady and the Patriots play in the Super Bowl in 80 For Brady.

I'll be honest - I was never a Patriots fan growing up (like Lil Wayne, I bleed green and yellow for the Green Bay Packers), so the concept of an ensemble comedy that trojan horses as a Tom Brady vanity project sounded wholly unpleasant to me. No one can deny Brady respect for his ample achievements on the field, but years of self-aggrandizing behaviors and his cockroach-esque ability to remain relevant have worn thin on me and most other football fans outside of New England (hey, at least he finally retired). I just spent over a decade tortured by his brilliant performances on the field - why would I want to watch a 90-minute movie basking in his emanating football glow?

Loosely based on a true story, 80 For Brady finds the future Hall of Famer trying to jumpstart his Hollywood career with the help of four lionized legends - Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno and Lilly Tomlin - in a breezy ensemble comedy. To my surprise, 80 For Brady scores a winning, if not wholly inconsequential, effort from its formulaic narrative playbook.

It's hard to fumble a feature with such dynamic talent on display. Field, Fonda, Moreno and Tomlin imbue their distinctive movie star presence into the best friend quartet who embark on a grand adventure to the extravagant stage of Super Bowl Sunday. What the characters lack in textured dimensions on the page, the personable stars readily make up for in their sheer ability to develop organic chemistry onscreen. It's a blast to see each actor play off each other with effortless ease as they form a lively, lived-in comedic rapport that never feels false onscreen. A who's who of star-studded cameos, including the likes of Guy Fieri, Rob Gronkowski and Marshawn Lynch, also elicits laughs in their memorable appearances.

As Brady once did during his football career, the core four stars truly elevate what could be lukewarm material in lesser hands. 80 For Brady features a hearty helping of cliched plot dynamics, melodramatic tugs at the heartstrings, and underdeveloped character arcs. However, those shortcomings are consistently patched together through the sheer gravitas of its central stars. Lilly Tomlin's arc as Lou, a woman who finds solace in sports while undergoing medical difficulties, especially resonates in unexpectedly emotional ways.

I do give screenwriters Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins praise for defining an expressive voice within the narrative's contrived confines. Whereas a lot of senior ensemble films talk down to their characters and audiences by depicting protagonists as the bud of lame duck jokes, Halpern and Haskins wisely see the empowerment in the quartet continuing to embrace colorful hijinks in their elder years. This warm approach helps define 80 For Brady as an affectionate portrait of friendship's enduring power.

Still, 80 For Brady settles for an acceptable field goal rather than scoring a gratifying touchdown. The film's somewhat cynical roots as a Brady-inspired piece of hero worship are inherently unavoidable. Brady gives an earnest enough performance playing himself, but the movie can sometimes stumble from feeling like a vapid commercial for the superstar's greatness. Overwhelming propaganda for the National Football is equally present, with the film taking every chance it gets to sing the admittedly dysfunctional sport's praises. It's also hard to ignore the film's ephemeral appeals. Despite its strengths, 80 For Brady and its slight nature are ultimately destined to evaporate from viewers' memory banks quickly after the end credits roll.

Misgivings aside, 80 For Brady works well as a brisk comedy that highlights the magnetic talents of its four Hollywood stalwarts. If anything, Patriot fans will enjoy the splendors of re-living the iconic Patriots-Falcons Super Bowl comeback all over again. For Falcons fans still in a state of traumatic shock, maybe this is one you want to skip out on.

80 For Brady is now playing in theaters.


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