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A grizzled coach comes out of retirement to train a group of misfits-in-need-of-redemption in The Replacements, a gridiron comedy inspired by the NFL players strike of 1987.
With four games left in the season, the Washington Sentinals put their playoff hopes in the hands of a quarterback haunted by his collegiate Waterloo (Reeves), a deaf tight end, a psychotic linebacker, a chain-smoking placekicker and a wide receiver who can’t catch. It’s up to no-guff optimist Jimmy McGinty (Hackman) to turn them into winners.
The Replacements vilifies greedy, pampered athletes as it makes heroes of scabs who suit up purely for the love of the game. McGinty encourages and empowers his players, who band together and defend each other (a cheerleader tells the stand-in QB, "You’re the first player I can remember who cares more about his teammates than he does about himself"). Nice gain. Then it fumbles.
While not as raunchy as similar sports comedies (Slap Shot, Major League), this film still should have been flagged with an R rating for unnecessarily rough language (incessant profanity includes more than 30 s-words). There’s also brief nudity, frequent alcohol use, an obscene gesture, sexual humor and gratuitous shots of strippers-turned-cheerleaders gyrating on the sidelines. Also, a Christian athlete projects an unflattering born-again stereotype.
Fans of sports movies won’t care that the plot is as predictable as a pass on third and long. What should bother families is how unnecessarily crass it all is. Despite putting a few moral points on the board, The Replacements stumbles with the game on the line.