'80 for Brady' Scores But Only Because of its Legendary Lead Actresses
While basically a commercial for the NFL and Tom Brady's legacy, actresses Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, and Rita Moreno elevate the predictable script.
Opening in theaters on February 3rd is the new sports comedy ’80 for Brady’ from director Kyle Marvin, which stars Academy Award winners Jane Fonda, Sally Field, and Rita Moreno, as well as Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award winner Lily Tomlin.
The film is loosely based on the true story of a quartet of octogenarians from Massachusetts who become obsessed with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. In the film (not in real life), the ladies decide to take a road trip to Super Bowl LI to finally see Brady play in person, which results in an unforgettable weekend for the four lifelong friends.
The result is a fun but predictable movie that is basically just a commercial for the NFL and Tom Brady’s legacy. However, the weak script, familiar jokes and corny dialogue is transcended by the four fabulous lead characters and the wonderful performances from the legendary actress playing them.
Full disclosure: I’m from Massachusetts. My mother still lives there, she is over 80, and is a diehard Patriots fan. So, it goes without saying that I was already predisposed to like this movie since all four of the main characters, in one way or another, remind me of my mom. While I definitely had some issues with the script and the ridiculousness of the third act, the film is still very enjoyable, mostly because of the lead actresses.
Of the four main actresses, Lily Tomlin is really the lead, playing Lou, the catalyst for the friends becoming such Brady fans. Tomlin, a legendary comedian in her own right, handles the comedy well, as you would expect, but is really impressive in her dramatic scenes, in particular one with Brady himself.
In fact, all four actress were cast extremely well and play relatable characters. Jane Fonda plays Trish, an author of Rob Gronkowski fan-fiction who is desperately trying to hold on to her youth and beauty. Sally Field plays Betty, a book smart former professor, who still loves her husband (Bob Balaban) but is looking for a little excitement in her life. Finally there is Maura, played by Rita Moreno. She is the oldest of the friends, a widow who misses her late husband, and a bit of a hustler living in a retirement home.
In a movie like this, you could easily see one or two of the actresses getting more screentime than the others, but luckily that is not the case. Each actress has more than a few moments to shine on their own, and all of their characters are fleshed out extremely well. Fonda and Tomlin have worked together before in ‘Nine to Five’ and the Netflix series ‘Grace and Frankie,’ and as you expect, have great chemistry together. But I was also impressed with how much chemistry they both had with Field and Moreno. You really get the feeling that these four women have been friends for a long time.
While the characters are well-defined and their backstories well fleshed out, it’s the familiar attempts at humor and ridiculous third act plot points that hurt the film in my opinion. For example, the ladies attend a Super Bowl party where they are given Gummy Bears, which of course they don’t know are laced with THC. This leads to the characters being high, and getting into silly situations that are extremely predictable, like Maura wondering into a celebrity Poker game.
Another predictable plot point is when the characters, of course, lose their Super Bowl tickets the day before the game. In fact, this is so predictable that you want to yell at the screen because you can actually see them losing the tickets long before the characters realize it, telegraphing for the audience what the next conflict will be.
Which brings me to my biggest issue with the film, which is that once they get to the Super Bowl, it’s all fantasy. What I mean by that is almost nothing that happens at the Super Bowl could happen in real life. No one can get into a Super Bowl without tickets, the security is just too much, so the idea that these four octogenarians could ultimately find their way in without tickets is just laughable.
But the most ridiculous, over-the-top moment of the film comes during the halftime of Super Bowl LI. Football fans will remember that the Patriots were losing to the Atlanta Falcons 21-3 at halftime, and mounted an unforgettable comeback that took them into overtime eventually winning 34-28. Without giving too much away, the movie would have you believe that it was Lou that inspired Tom Brady's legendary comeback.
Now, while that is a nice idea for the movie, this is a film supposedly set in reality. It doesn’t take place in the Multiverse as far as I know, it takes place in our world where Tom Brady and the NFL really exists. So, the idea that four 80-year-old women could get access to the star quarterback during halftime was so far beyond any reality I could comprehend, that it took me completely out of the movie.
For Brady fans wondering if he just has a cameo in the film, I’m happy to say no, his role is surprisingly larger than that. While he is definitely in a supporting role, he pops up throughout the film, both as himself, and also as himself in Lou’s imagination. Brady gives a strong performance, even if he is just playing himself, and is surprisingly good in his emotional scenes with Tomlin. But it is no surprise to me why Brady would want to make this movie, where he also serves as a producer, because the entire film is one giant ego stroke for the GOAT.
The NFL, which famously doesn’t allow its brand to appear in just any movie, ask Oliver Stone about ‘Any Given Sunday,’ clearly was on board with this production. In fact, a large part of the second act takes place at the NFL Super Bowl Experience, and at times seems more like a commercial for the NFL than a narrative movie. The NFL also (presumably) allowed the film to use footage from Super Bowl LI to recreate the game, which works surprisingly well and is still engaging, even though the audience already knows the outcome.
In addition to Patriots like Brady, Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, and Julian Edelman, the movie also features cameos and supporting performances from Guy Fieri, Billy Porter, Patton Oswalt, Glynn Turman, and Harry Hamlin, as well as Sara Gilbert as Lou’s daughter.
In the end, ’80 for Brady’ is a fun movie that NFL and Patriots fans will enjoy, and my mom and her friends will love! While the film at times loses any sense of reality and slips into pure fantasy, and has more than its share of script issues and NFL propaganda, it’s funny and works thanks to the talent of Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Rita Moreno.
’80 for Brady’ receives 6.5 out of 10 stars