80 FOR BRADY
Perhaps it is serendipity that NFL quarterback Tom Brady announced his retirement the day before 80 For Brady was released. Given how Brady is a shrewd manager of his brand, however, one would be forgiven if he/she thought it was intentional. Having four film and television legends team up for a fun comedy should be an easy field goal. Pity that 80 For Brady has the accuracy of a Dallas Cowboys kicker.
Four women share a longtime friendship and a passion for then-New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Their de facto leader Louella (Lily Tomlin) has recovered from cancer, though it might have returned. Man-hungry Trish (Jane Fonda) falls in and out of love and has a sideline writing erotica focused on tight end Rob Gronkowski. Recent widow Maura (Rita Moreno) opts to stay at her late husband's retirement home instead of her own home. Sensible Betty (Sally Field) recently retired from teaching college, but her husband Mark (Bob Balaban) is extremely dependent on her for his own educational needs.
Lou decides that they should go see Brady in person when the Patriots face the Atlanta Falcons at Super Bowl LI. Having apparently won four tickets to the game, our gal pals are off to Houston. There, Trish finds a new fan in former player Dan (Harry Hamlin), Maura and Betty accidentally get high (and the latter winning big at a poker game). Lou hears and sees Tom Brady give her messages of hope and encouragement whenever she sees him be it on television or bobbleheads.
A few twists and turns later with missing tickets and impromptu dance numbers, our Senior Fangirls manage to get inside NRG Stadium. Here romances are rekindled, and our glamorous girls find Gronk, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Brady too. They also learn the true power of friendship.
I, perhaps, can give grudging respect to the cast for making as solid a go as possible in 80 For Brady. However, Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins' screenplay is one of the laziest that I have seen. So much of 80 For Brady either doesn't make sense or is idiotic that you sometimes cover your eyes to avoid even metaphorical eye contact. When Maura is given two medications, one for blood pressure, the other for sleep, you pretty much know where this is going. It is a pointless way to make these women look stupid and/or crazy.
Other elements felt added to lengthen a surprisingly short film (at a mere 98 minutes). Sally, ostensibly the demurest one, enters a Spicy Hot Wings contest at the NFL Experience hosted by Guy Fieri. She did this because it was the only way she could eat. Leaving aside the illogic of how she could not find any other food truck at the NFL Experience, how she managed to win said contest is never explained, let alone given a logical explanation.
Delving further into the NFL Experience, one is amazed that Trish's Gronkowski-centric erotica is sold there. Add to that the fact that no one apparently thought to invite the author to a book signing/reading. It seems strange that this is a more rational explanation to get the women to gain entry to the Super Bowl than all the hoops and ladders they went through. Wouldn't it have been simpler to have "Virginia La Rue" be an NFL Experience guest to promote Between a Gronk and a Hard Place and have her friends join her there?
As a side note, we find that Rob Gronkowski has a copy of Between a Gronk and a Hard Place in his locker. Apart from being surprised that Gronk is able to read, one wonders how large his ego is that he would read erotica centered around him.
Ah, but logic is one thing that 80 For Brady cares absolutely nothing about. It's all about the hijinks our four sassy seniors can get into. You want to see Sally Field call a fanny pack a "strap on" repeatedly and be oblivious to what "strap on" means to others? How about Rita Moreno in a drug-induced hallucination seeing endless Guy Fieris and managing to not just enter but win a poker match (which she was unaware was for charity)? How about seeing Tom Brady speak to Lou directly through jumbo screens?
Don't bother asking why the women opted to take their very expensive Super Bowl tickets to the free NFL Experience rather than keep them at the hotel or a hotel safe. Don't bother asking why Lou keeps her winning Super Bowl tickets a secret from her daughter Sara (Sara Gilbert). Don't bother asking how their instant friend Gugu (Billy Porter) can coordinate a quick dance routine to convince a security guard that these women are part of the Halftime Show.
80 For Brady depends on too many outlandish and flat-out idiotic coincidences and circumstances to function. I sat there in puzzlement over how four seats could be conveniently available for them to use sans tickets. That was already built on a pretty useless plot point about the veracity of the tickets themselves, but no worries: Dan would get them onto a suite from which they could enjoy the game.
Up to a point, I get that 80 For Brady is meant as something of a lark. I can even accept how it hits clichés (such as how Lou's inspirational speech managed to rally Brady himself to make a comeback). However, it all seemed too convenient, too pat, even insulting for me to accept. To be fair, I did laugh a few times. Security guard Chip (Ron Funches) finds them sitting in seats after denying them entry for fake tickets. "Let's go, Golden Girls", he tells them as he starts escorting them out.
The film also has other issues. Apart from the core four, the other characters are so uninteresting. The subplot of Mark being so weak and oblivious that he had to be told to put on pants and had to ask his wife to decide which paper to present was annoying. Balaban's performance is embarrassing, and his character is unnecessary. We got two Patriots broadcasters (complete with Boston accents) for no reason (the contest story being concocted). Maura's budding relationship with Mickey (Glynn Turman) is undeveloped. Sally Fields' Betty apparently hitting on a much younger man she accidentally smacked in her drug-induced dance is not funny (the dance itself is only mildly amusing if more in a cringe way).
As a side note, why the Patriots Nation podcast opted to pick the "Tom Brady Support Group" as the winners when it was clear that the four men who were also named "Tom Brady" clearly did not want to be there is dumb. Then again, losing the fake Super Bowl tickets kept in a "strap on" at a Spicy Hot Wings eating contest is not exactly rational even in something as fluffy as 80 For Brady.
To be fair, the four leads are entertaining to watch and work well together. They are much better than the material and make the friendships between Lou, Trish, Maura and Betty believable. They go all-in on the characters. Tomlin, for example, is able to transition from asking the confused party audience if they have any requests as she holds the microphone to the drama of telling her daughter she will open the doctor's letter later. They all shift from the silly to the serious quite well. I think they had a good time being in 80 For Brady. Good for them, I guess.
80 For Brady might also entertain football fans who might enjoy seeing Super Bowl LI highlights which to be fair are well-edited into the film.
I should be more forgiving of something like 80 For Brady. I know it is meant as a goofy romp, fluff to not take seriously. However, I have often said that "Mindless is fine. Brainless is not". I can go for something silly if it is self-aware. 80 For Brady is aware, but it also tries too hard to simultaneously be too goofy and clever. Its celebration of Tom Brady too does not help. Then again, given he produced 80 For Brady, it isn't a surprise that it is something of a celebration of himself.
Yes, Tom Brady will be listed among the greatest football players of all time. However, I do not have to sit through a film that comes close to seeing Tom Brady masturbate to images of himself. 80 For Brady is very loosely based on a true story. I hope the truth is better than what inspired the film.
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