Today’s installment of 73 Sports Movies in 73 Days is another of my personal favorites and nominees for the Perfect Sports Movie Formula Award, The Replacements. Like most of these silly movies that I’ve been filling two hours of each day with for the past several weeks, up through the first game of the 2013 NFL season, The Replacements isn’t a particularly good movie, and its sports scenes are downright laughable, but it has plenty of charm to make up for all of that.
I’m also finding it hard to believe that this movie came out 13 years ago last Sunday, because I’ve watched this film approximately 50 times since then, but that just means that I’m aging better than I could have ever imagined. Seriously, my DNA is impressive. But how about The Replacements? How does it age? So well, it turns out, that I’d still like to write the sequel for a 2014 release.
The Wiry Plot… Wiry? WIRY… According To The Perfect Sports Movie Formula
Let’s go ahead and run down all of this dumb-but-lovable comedy’s plot points and determine just how perfect of a sports movie it is, shall we?
Shane Falco is the down on his luck loser former athlete working a terrible job, and he’s still the butt of so many jokes all these years later after he choked away the big game and cost himself a career as a pro. (1)
The veteran, grizzled coach who plays by his own set of rules is soon hired back by the fictional Washington DC team’s eccentric owner to sign some replacement players once the players’ union announces a strike over unfair wages. (2)
Coach Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman in a sweet lid) decides that if he’s gonna do this, by God, he’s gonna do it with his own QB, and that man is Shane Falco, because he knows that he’s a winner deep down.*taps heart with rolled up playbook*
While the rest of the team fills in with random goofy characters, like the Welsh soccer player, the pissed off cop, the even more pissed off ex-con (3), the celebrity bodyguards and the sumo wrestler, among others, Jimmy still wants his man, Shane, to show up and fulfill his destiny.
Shane eventually caves in and decide that he can take one more shot at glory, because it’s better than scraping barnacles off the bottom of boats in between pretending to play football underwater.
Plus, the head cheerleader is super hot and totally into Shane, which works because he digs her, too. But she won’t date him because cheerleaders and jocks shouldn’t fraternize. This is a point that John Madden makes sure to point out during the film. (4)
Annabelle is also charged with recruiting new cheerleaders (5), and that leads to a convenient tryout montage (6). The girls she ends up with are strippers and that makes the male fans and opposing players happy. Except for Jim Haslett.
Anyway, nobody on this team of scabs gets along, so it’s up to the QB as the leader of the team to make his teammates stop arguing, but they don’t take him seriously because he choked in one game. I mean, how could anybody ever take a guy seriously when he was nervous and choked in the National Championship game as a freshman?
Finally, Coach Jimmy tells Shane to put up or shut up, and Footsteps wins his team over by playing to win and putting everything on the line, something the team’s actual QB was always afraid to do. Shane plays with heart now, because you must have heart. *taps chest with rolled up playbook* Heart.
Things are finally going great for Shane, as he’s got the girl and a winning team, and the Sentinels are one game away from the playoffs, but *RECORD SCRATCH* Martel crosses the picket line and rejoins the Sentinels (more on this shortly). That leaves Shane as the odd man out, and he doesn’t even bother showing up to the final regular season game, because he has a broken heart. *taps chest with rolled up playbook* Broken heart.
Eddie soon learns that his brash, arrogant ways won’t buy him any devotion from this team that lived and died by Shane, and he makes a fatal mistake when he insults the deaf receiver. That was Shane’s Wes Welker, Eddie. You don’t mess with him. (7)
Eddie can’t win with these losers, but Shane can. Wanna know how I know that? He shows up at halftime and says, “I can,” because Coach Jimmy told the reporter that he needed heart. *taps chest with rolled up playbook* Miles and miles of heart. Boom, the rest of the team physically assaults Eddie out of the locker room, and I assume that he’s dead. (8)
Shane and the Replacements begin pulling off their incredible comeback, as they somehow suddenly manage to hold the opposing team to three-and-outs and/or force turnovers on every possession while scoring at will. (9)
Finally, Shane’s hand is forced as a leader when he realizes that something is bothering Nigel, and the kicker admits that he must blow the game or the toughs will take his pub (10). So Shane decides to keep the ball on the snap, run for a touchdown, take the hard hit and win the game on his own like, as Coach Jimmy says, winners would want to do.
Too bad stupid sumo jerk was holding and the Sentinels now have an extra 10 yards to go, so that means they have to pass the ball now and there’s no way that the defense would expect that to happen, and the deaf wide receiver is wide open.
The Sentinel’s replacement players win and take the team to the playoffs, only to be fired the next day as the strike ends. (11)
And while most of that would seem like a pretty stupid, predictable movie, it’s great because it’s dumb and they used the Wallflowers’ cover of “Heroes” at the end and I really like that song.
Shut up, Ed. You didn’t know anything. You suck.
Relevant Footnotes and Observations:
1. Because that happens. College teams always bench freshman QBs that lead them to the National Championship game just because they have one bad game, and NFL teams won’t even bother drafting a talented QB, even as a backup, if he has a bad championship game as a freshman. Nope, every team just says, “PASS” and they all move on. UPON FURTHER REVIEW: They do mention that he had a chance as a pro. For as many times as I’ve seen this movie, I can’t believe I missed that.
2. Is every team’s roster on strike or just the Sentinels? Because it seems like every team was able to find monsters to fill out their rosters while the Sentinels had a bunch of simple-minded dolts who were the only options. Or maybe Coach McGinty was just a really bad coach and that’s the reason he was fired, and not because he got into a fight with Eddie Martel.
But if it was just the one team that went on strike, that would have to cause the league’s commissioner to launch an investigation into Sentinels owner Ed O’Neill (what, was Al Bundy taken?) for being a threat to the welfare of the league. And what would be the precedent here? Could the league force O’Neill to sell? These are the kinds of front office political issues that I’d like to explore in a sequel.
3. How on Earth does the governor of Maryland just allow a convicted felon out of prison to play professional football and nobody has a problem with it? Hell, how on Earth did Danny Bateman not lose his mind when he learned that he was playing with a man convicted of assaulting a police officer? Meanwhile, he holds a knife to Clifford Franklin’s face in the cafeteria and Danny doesn’t even budge? Maybe the problem isn’t letting a man out of jail to play football. Maybe it’s the employment of a cop who refuses to do his job.
4. By the way, the least romantic thing in the history of movies is having John Madden narrate a kissing scene. I’d rather have Gus Johnson call play-by-play of my lovemaking. Seriously, I would.
5. Even the cheerleaders are on strike? That’s f*cking solidarity.
6. Originally, when I wrote up Bring it On, I was pretty pissed off, because I assumed that Bring it On was older than The Replacements and I accused the latter of stealing the montage scene from the former. In fact, it was really blatant. But then I just realized that The Replacements hit theaters on August 11 and Bring it On came out on August 25, 2000. That’s a coincidence that boggles the mind.
7. It’s a pretty ballsy strategy for Coach Jimmy to not employ a backup QB, by the way.
8. The best part of the beef between Shane and Eddie is when Eddie inexplicably says, “You don���t deserve her,” referring to the head cheerleader, Annabelle. But they have never established any sort of relationship between Eddie and Annabelle. I would devote a small part of the sequel to introducing Annabelle’s child from her broken marriage to Eddie, and explore how that affects Shane’s abilities and confidence on the field.
9. I tried to keep track of the scoring and even watched the final game’s second half scenes twice, but I could not determine if it was following logic or just sort of winging it. I’ll chalk that up to good writing and editing, in that it was too confusing and caused the viewer to just say, “F*ck it.”
10. Why does Nigel Gruff give a crap if they take his pub at this point? He’s become an automatic impact kicker and will have teams knocking down his door to sign him in the offseason. Just give the pub to the toughs and call it even. No pub is worth the constant threats when you’re staring down millions, and even endorsements.
11. Basically, the players just let the scabs do all of the heavy lifting until the playoffs, but sure, flip the poor guy’s truck over.
The Sequel That I’d Write
Because this is a formulaic sports movie, I wouldn’t try to change that by making the characters that much deeper or focusing on more accurate sports scenes. Basically, I’d adopt a better form of the Major League 2 strategy, as that film was just written based off of a bunch of lines that they cut from the original film while recycling the entire plot.
For The Replacements 2, I’d start off as the offseason was beginning for the Sentinels and owner Ed O’Neill is forced to sell the team after it’s revealed that his company (he sells dildos) was defrauding the government while employing slave labor. O’Neill will die from natural causes on the way to prison. Being hit by a train while a bear mauls you is considered natural, right?
The owner of the strip club that provided Sentinels replacement dancers Heather and Dawn forms an ownership group that submits the winning bid for the Sentinels and they immediately ask Coach Jimmy to return full-time and to sign Shane Falco to be the franchise QB that Eddie Martel was too cowardly to be. Coach Jimmy and Shane agree, and the entire team comes back, even the convicted felon, because we need fluidity.
The only difference is that Clifford Franklin will now be played by a Chinese girl, not because Orlando Jones would want more money, but I think it’s hilarious when movies and TV shows just switch characters like that and pretend like it’s not bothering the hell out of us the whole time. (Especially when you have the racial undertone of “Hey these guys look alike” lingering and you can laugh at how inept some studios can be.)
The goal of the scabs as they become the full-time players for the Sentinels is to win a championship, as all of their efforts and hopes and dreams were destroyed when the regular Sentinels players lost to the New York team 52-0 in the first round of the playoffs last year. The ending of the sequel will have them winning in the first round, but we’ll leave everyone hanging there so we can make a third one with an entirely different cast. That’s how franchises are born in H-Wood, people. That and cocaine.
*taps rolled up playbook against nose*
Miles and miles of cocaine.
Oh, and there will also be a dance scene in jail, because a team isn’t truly unified until it’s wrongly arrested and pinned with assault charges in a bar room brawl and then dances in jail.