It is with a certain sense of irony that famed NFL quarterback Tom Brady recently announced his retirement from the NFL for a second time. It comes on the eve of the release of 80 for Brady. They were not timed together, to be sure. Paramount’s marketing efforts timed Kyle Marvin’s film ahead of the upcoming Super Bowl as it hits theaters this weekend.
The story is centered around four retirees who are die-hard New England Patriots fans as they make their way to Super Bowl LI in 2017. With an all-star cast including Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno, Sally Field, and Harry Hamlin, with cameos from Brady, Bob Balaban, and Guy Fieri, you’d anticipate director Kyle Marvin’s film to have some spunk that Bostonians are known for.
While Sarah Haskins’ and Emily Halpern’s script takes full advantage of Tomlin’s, Fonda’s, Moreno’s, and Field’s talents, 80 for Brady doesn’t fully capitalize on them.
Set in during the Patriots’ run leading to Super Bowl LI in 2017, we are treated to Lou’s (Tomlin) fierce independence, Trish’s (Fonda) voracious appetites, Maura’s (Moreno) quiet excitability, and Betty’s (Field) struggles to find meaning in her life. A subplot involving the health of one of the ladies leads them to seek tickets for the Super Bowl in Houston, and once there, a series of side trips for each character makes up the bulk of the story, and they have a ball.
The story’s side trips give each character plenty to do, though that is also where the story fumbles the ball; none of these side stories really advances the plot leading to a convoluted third act.
Each of the side trips is unique in its own way, highlighting the four leading ladies’ talents – Betty’s participation in a Spicy Hot Wings Challenge hosted by none other than Guy Fieri is a hoot; we learn what makes her tick because of a soured relationship with her husband, Mark (Bob Balaban) that keeps rearing its influence on the story. Trish is a novelist, and there’s a running gag regarding Rob Gronkowski that elicits chuckles because it plays to Fonda’s independence. Moreno, as Maura, is a lot of fun, and she and Tomlin are there to support Fonda and Field.
Marvin, who makes his feature debut in the director’s seat, balances the offense strategy with humor, and the film will undoubtedly hit its intended target audience. As a fan of all four leads, they are endearing and enduring. We find their rabble-rousing spark, zest, and zeal for life infectious; I’m glad they’re not retiring from acting and making comebacks, much like Brady himself.
80 for Brady runs a scant 98 minutes, and within that context, we get the vitality with which we learn what makes Lou, Trish, Maura, and Betty tick. Yet, it feels like the story either needed more bulk to it or additional trims – it surprises, but Colin Patton’s editing also projects, much like knowing the surprise outcome of Super Bowl LI. And, as exciting as being able to attend a Super Bowl, the individual side trips the characters go on are more exciting and interesting than the overall story itself. The dots are there; they were just over-vested in trying to tell the story.
One side story that does take practical shape involves Fonda and Harry Hamlin’s Dan. Their frisky natures allow for a natural attraction to form. 80 for Brady’s strength lies in its characterizations and their interactions, even as late as the third act Hail Mary revelation mutes the goodwill the story generated before it.
John Toll’s cinematography takes full advantage of locations including Boston and Houston. Footage from the Super Bowl is dynamic even as the ladies’ shenanigans continue; they know how to make their way and get their way when they work as a team, one of the story’s more solid themes.
Now in theaters, 80 for Brady will draw fans in for the leading quad of actresses and for Brady himself. The story has a good foundation, but it struggles to find solid footing enough to carry it beyond the first down.
PG-13, 98 minutes, Paramount Pictures
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