Reviewed by: Keith P. Soencksen
|Featuring:||Mark Wahlberg, Greg Kinnear, Elizabeth Banks, Stink Fisher, Michael Kelly|
|Producer:||Nikki Reed, Victor Constantino, Ezra Swerdlow|
|Distributor:||Buena Vista Pictures Distribution|
“Dreams are not lived on the sidelines.”
In 1975, the Philadelphia Eagles won all of 4 games. Enter new rookie head coach Dick Vermeil, coming right on the heels of successful leadership at UCLA. As a new coach on a new and unfriendly coast, Dick shakes up the skeptical and worn-out Philadelphia fans by taking an unprecedented, and highly unorthodox step: open tryouts.
Based on a true story, “Invincible” is about Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg), just your average Joe from South Philly. Newly married, he struggles to make ends meet by substitute teaching and bartending at Max’s Bar and Grill. After losing his teaching job, Vince’s wife leaves him, along with a heartless note explaining that Vince will never amount to anything. The regular crowd at Max’s rallies around Vince, convincing him that since nothing is going his way anyway, he’s got nothing to lose by working out with the Eagles, even if only for an hour.
Vince’s “family,” consisting of his father, his friends at Max’s, and his new love interest Janet (Elizabeth Banks, who, sadly, is a Giants fan) cheer Vince on despite his unlikely prospects, and the rest is history. The Eagles end the 1976 pre-season at 0-6, and top it off with a chilling opening defeat at the hands of Dallas Cowboy greats like Staubach, Drew Pearson, and Ed “Too Tall” Jones. Gradually, history finds the Eagles pulling out of a rut that some thought they’d never get out of, with Papale becoming a key contributor along the way.
“Invincible” is inspiring from beginning to end. Non-sports fans need not be concerned that this is just a typical “football” movie targeting a male audience. While there are plenty of violent impacts between players, this is also a touching drama that shows the power of friendship, family, and team. Vince never loses touch with his roots. Unlike so many professional athletes, he never becomes arrogant or above the rest of society. He’s just a good ole’ South Philly boy, and he’ll always be one. When asked about the real-life Vince Papale, actor Mark Wahlberg venerated him as a class act who spent every day on the set during filming.
The musical score is reason enough to see this movie. For those of us who grew up in the 70’s, few would disagree that the rock-n-roll of that day has simply never been improved upon. There’s music in almost every scene, and every song fits superbly, transporting the viewer 30 years back in time. At the end of the movie, viewers are treated to some real footage from Papale’s three seasons as an Eagle. Viewers over age 40 will find everything from the big-block cars to the big-pattern wallpaper nostalgic.
The troubling aspects of “Invincible” are very few. I kept having to remind myself that I was watching a movie centered in gritty Philadelphia, with mostly middle-aged, sports fanatical, male characters. Why? Because I expected 4-letter filth to be in heavy supply. Not only is God’s name not taken in vain, but cursing is non-existent. Folks, Hollywood and Disney deserve some kudos here! This movie could’ve easily been filled with profanity, and the fact that it wasn’t is so incredibly refreshing that I almost couldn’t contain myself.
There are of course a number of bar scenes, and a fair amount of beer drinking. There is one reference to a person being drunk (not visibly), but I don’t see how anyone could come away thinking that alcohol consumption was overdone or glorified in this movie.
There is one bump on the road to paradise, as it were. Late in the movie, Vince and Janet share a very (and I mean very) passionate, open-mouthed, tongue-and-all kiss. The scene lasts 10 seconds or so, after which they hastily push themselves into Janet’s house. From here the scene changes thankfully, but sex is clearly implied. Biblically, pre-marital sex is never “OK,” even for football stars, and even if marriage is in a couple’s future plans. The Bible has much to say about sexual immorality, none of it good. For starters, try 1 Corinthians 5 and 6. Thankfully, there is no nudity, and this scene represents only a brief departure from an otherwise morally uplifting story.
A final caution is in order. Despite the strong message of hope presented in this movie, the hope is wholly man-centered. There is no mention of God or Christ whatsoever. The gang at Max’s has placed their hope in Vince, and lives vicariously through him. As Christians, we know that trusting in a hope that is based on man’s abilities is futile. To quote a classic from 1834:
“My hope is built on nothing less,
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand all other ground is sinking sand.”
“Invincible” is easily as enjoyable as movies like “Miracle” and “Cinderella Man”, but it should also remind us to be wary of our love affairs with sports, and sports heroes, and friends, and , and well, everyone and everything but Jesus. Let us be ever mindful that our vain strivings and successes on this Earth are but a vapor. We have significantly more to gain on Sunday by worshipping at the cross than at the TV set or the stadium.
Violence: Minor / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: Minor