August 26, 2006

Movie Review: Invincible (2006)

What is it about Disney and the inspirational sports drama? Somehow they can take the tired formula and make it compelling, time after time after time. Past productions include Glory Road, Miracle, The Rookie, The Greatest Game Ever Played, and Remember the Titans. None of them really break any new ground, but I always seem to be sucked in by the story. It never seems to matter who is directing or who is writing, but they always churn out worthy films.

I am not the biggest sports fan in the world, so I usually enter these with very little knowledge of the actual events and people that inspired them. I don't know if that helps or hurts, but I guess it doesn't matter since I have enjoyed the movies anyway. Invincible is no different.

Invincible is the story of Vincent Papale, a 30 year old bartender from Philadelphia who goes to an open tryout for the Philadelphia Eagles. Dirk Vermiel is the new coach of the team that has been suffering a number of losing seasons in front of a rabid crowd. We all know how the story is going to go, a down and out guy tries out, works hard against adversity, and eventually overcomes to win the hearts of a city and the love interest.

Mark Wahlberg plays Papale well. He is the everyman with whom the passive viewer can put their hopes and dreams, living vicariously through the underdog champion. Where Papale came from, and what he went through gives everyone something to identify with. The cast is filled with the usual suspects. There is the love interest, the supportive friends, the rival, the teammates who look down on him, and the coach who stands up for him. All of which play the usual roles, but they are portrayed very well.

The movie was directed by first timer Ericson Core, who has spent most of his career as a director of photography on films such as Daredevil, The Fast and the Furious, and Payback. I am sure that experience came in handy whil shooting Invincible. The movie has an epic feel too it, and despite the perpetual use of green/brown (I have a touch of color-blindness, and the color could go wither way to me) filters giving it all a but of ugliness, still looks good. The relationship is much like the compelling tale against the cliched nature of the story. The script was written by Brad Gann, who did a good job of keeping the primary storyline in focus, and the heart on its sleeve. Although some of the background relationships were a little underwritten, it doesn't detract from the film as a whole.

The acting is good, as well, even if there is no stretch required. Wahlberg does a fine job of embodying the embattled everyman, seeking to fight the odds. Elizabeth Banks (Slither) is lovely as the interloper Giants fan and love interest. Greg Kinnear is fine as Dick Vermiel, the coach seeking to win over a city and get a few wins. None of the performances are Oscar type, but they do the job of keeping you involved for the entire running of the movie.

Bottomline. A surprisingly effective film that continues Disney's stranglehold on the formula. Fine performances lead the film to its inspirational goal. It may look a bit ugly through the filters, and you may not want to revisit the fashion sense and hairstyles, but you will want to visit with Vince and his journey.

Recommended.
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