Everyone loves a feel-good movie based on a true story… the more outlandish the pretense, the better. And now that we are in the post-holiday movie doldrums, what sounds better than a feel-good buddy movie about going to the Super Bowl? What if it was about four octogenarian ladies hell-bent on seeing their favorite New England Patriots player Tom Brady (circa 2017) before he gets “too old”? Sounds great in theory, especially when you cast American icons Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda (who have cemented their odd-couple BFF status in pop culture) paired with the gorgeously ageless Rita Moreno and America’s original cutie-pie sweetheart Sally Field. It would have to be comedic gold! I mean… wouldn’t it?
Now, I for one hate Tom Brady. And by “hate” I mean that I roll my eyes and begrudgingly admit that he was just so damn good during his never-ending NFL dominance that I got tired of his pretty face and the G-D Patriots. But 80-something (give or take a few years) longtime pals Trish (Fonda), Lou (Tomlin), Betty (Field), and Maura (Moreno) love them some Tom Brady. In fact, the ladies have diligently followed him ever since the start of his career, which happened to coincide with them helping Lou through cancer treatments. This (and of course his talent and good looks) led to a devotion from the ladies that any superstitious sports fan would understand. Now that Brady and the Patriots are going to the Super Bowl (again), Lou is hellbent on getting her and her pals to the Big Show. What she doesn’t tell them is that she is dreading the results of a medical test… this may be the last hurrah for the foursome.
Once the women let loose on the host city Houston and the NFL’s pre-game fan experience (which is basically a NFL-themed Disneyland of sensory-overload entertainment), all sorts of hijinks ensue. I have to admit, there are a few good chuckles on the way. Trish (Fonda), with her flowing blonde wigs and pert body, is in no time making out with a retired player (Harry Hamlin) and signing autographs of her football-themed fan fiction books. Betty (Field), gets sucked into a spicy hot wings-eating contest hosted by Guy Fieri. And Maura (Morena) gets dosed at a fancy party and stumbles hallucinating into a high-stakes poker party with some random familiar faces (Marshawn Lynch! Yeah!).
But the screenplay is so ham-handed with groan-worthy jokes that many of the “funny” bits fall completely flat. The directing is awkward, sometimes leaving our heroines walking aimlessly out of frame, and the editing leaves strained dead space for guffaws that never come. It’s truly a shame to waste the comic skills of these legendary ladies. We all know (based on their other recent work) that they can still kill it when given the right talent behind the camera. As it is, Sally Field and Rita Moreno are the only ones who garner any real laughs, pretty much by sheer force of will. The rest of the cast look like they showed up for a theme cruise without a cruise director to start the party. (Based on his few scenes with the foursome, I think Billie Porter would have been up for the job!)
But back to Tom Brady. I can’t even accuse him of being a bad actor. This film may be a puff piece for his ego (he is a producer), or a well-timed big-screen tribute to align with his just-announced second retirement (as if he can’t drop out of the headlines for like two seconds)… but he is actually kind of charming and guilelessly earnest in the scenes that require him to act. Especially when he is one on one with Tomlin, you can sense a love-fest between the two (he adores and respects her, and the love is reciprocated because he is such a nice young man). Those Brady-adoring fans are the target audience for this flick, and they are the same folks that will, I’m sure, find this disappointing sub-par movie absolutely delightful.