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The Comebacks

It's best not to expect too much from The Comebacks, but this affable parody of sports-movie trappings and clichés is less painless than one might have feared.


"Story" is a pejorative term when applied to The Comebacks. The entire concept of the film is basically an excuse to string together and spoof famous scenes from a variety of sports movies, including Field of Dreams, Bend It Like Beckham, Seabiscuit, Remember the Titans, Rudy, Invincible, Stick It, Drumline, et al. David Koechner stars as Lambeau Fields, the worst coach in the history of sports, who takes one more stab at gridiron glory when he agrees to coach Heartland State University's luckless football squad. Needless to say, this assemblage of losers, misfits and malcontents is turned into a winning team under Coach's somewhat unorthodox tutelage. Unlike most coaches, Fields encourages his players to cut class, take drugs, drink to excess and behave as badly as he does. It all culminates in the championship game ("The Toilet Bowl") between Coach Fields' Comebacks and the mighty Invincibles, coached by Fields' one-time friend-turned-rival, Freddie Wiseman (Carl Weathers). Despite being down 35-0 at halftime, the Comebacks...well, you can guess the rest.


The collective enthusiasm of the cast goes a long way toward keeping The Comebacks watchable. Koechner, enjoying his first big-screen lead, has a likable lunk-headed quality that makes Coach Fields an endearing idiot. Melora Hardin scores, too, as his neglected wife, and Brooke Nevin is a looker as their rebellious teenage daughter, who also happens to be a gymnastics wiz (Stick It, anyone?). Weathers, a one-time pro-football player before stardom (in Rocky beckoned), has a good time playing the duplicitous Coach Wiseman, and some of the more memorable members of the Comebacks include Matthew Lawrence, Jackie Long, Noureen DeWulf and Robert Ri'chard. A lot of familiar faces turn up in cameo roles: Will Arnett, Dax Shepard, Jonathan Gries, Kerri Kenney, Jillian Grace, Eric Christian Olsen, Stacy Kiebler, Frank Caliendo (doing his impressions of John Madden and Al Michaels) and Andy Dick, whose role as the referee during the climactic football game isn't big enough for him to be as truly annoying as he can be. (That's a good thing.) Not surprisingly, a number of real-life sports personalities turn up in cameos as well: Dennis Rodman (as a prison warden, no less!), Michael Irvin, Eric Dickerson, Lawrence Taylor, John Salley, Chris Rose and Bill Buckner (reprising his infamous error from the 1986 World Series).


Director Tom Brady, not to be mistaken for the New England Patriots quarterback, previously directed the 2002 Rob Schneider vehicle The Hot Chick. This is unquestionably an improvement. The Comebacks may be dumb--intentionally so--but it's never dull. There are a good number of groans along with laughs, but the film never really runs out of steam. The football scenes are surprisingly well-rendered and are realistic enough that they could easily have come from a straightforward football movie--without the punch lines, of course. There's a pretty even ratio between the gags that work and the ones that don't, and the film's formula seems to be: When all else fails, hit below the belt with repeated crotch jokes. Those looking for a sophisticated, highbrow comedy should look elsewhere.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 stars.