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The Replacements

Your team has to win three of the next four games to make it to the playoffs ... and the players have just gone on strike. What do you do? Call Keanu.


"The Replacements" says it all. A ragtag team of wannabes and has-beens is assembled by veteran coach Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman) to fill in for the picketing members of the Washington Sentinels. As you would expect, there's a little bit of everything on this menagerie of misfits: a sumo wrestler, a born-again Christian, a cop, a prisoner (whose warden conveniently grants him temporary parole), a chain-smoking soccer player and a deaf guy. Leading the pack is Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves), a barnacle-busting, bowl-blowing quarterback who's given a chance to redeem himself. You have three guesses at how it all turns out and the first two don't count. But while the cheese threat looms throughout, scribe Vince McKewin ("Fly Away Home") successfully navigates a minefield of clichés and scores a sincere albeit predictable touchdown.


With a pair of Oscars in his locker, Hackman is a brow-raising but much-appreciated addition to this team. Though his character is one-dimensional, his mere presence elevates the picture and lends it credibility at critical moments, such as when McGinty goes head-to-head with the team's owner (Jack Warden) over the fate of Falco. Reeves is affable as always, and the 25 pounds he put on for the role really shows. But the best performances belong to Brett Cullen, who plays the Sentinels' arrogant regular quarterback, and Jon Favreau, an overzealous attack dog on the field.


Howard Deutch ("Pretty in Pink," "Grumpier Old Men") delivers a football movie that should appeal to football fans and nonfans alike. The many scenes set on the gridiron are lively, witty and fast-moving. His emphasis here is not on the play of the game, but rather the game of the players. Despite the number of them, the team members are easily identified by their idiosyncrasies. There's very little character development ... it's simply not needed here. At no point does Deutch take this story or his subjects too seriously, and just when you think you've seen this play before, he calls a time out.

Bottom Line

Keanu wins one for the Gipper.


Starring Keanu Reeves, Gene Hackman, Orlando Jones, Jon Favreau and Brooke Langton

Directed by Howard Deutch. Written by Vince McKewin. Produced by Dylan Sellers. Released by Warner Bros.