Sports movies have proven very flexible matched with different genres, as biopics, comedies, and even heartwarming dramas all have used love of the game as a platform. Rousing music, inspired pratfalls, and sweeping shots of various fields of play have contributed to the language that movies use to make the world fall in love with athletes and fans alike. Director Kyle Marvin’s 80 For Brady understands that concept, but in only the most basic form possible, which results in a movie that loses the game before it even begins.
80 For Brady
Release Date: February 3, 2023
Directed By: Kyle Marvin
Written By: Sarah Haskins & Emily Halpern
Starring: Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field, and Rita Moreno
Loosely inspired by the real-life story of a Tom Brady fan club made of several older women, 80 For Brady draws together Lou (Lily Tomlin), Trish (Jane Fonda), Maura (Rita Moreno), and Betty (Sally Field), a group much like their counterparts from reality. As they get hyped for Super Bowl LI – a championship game between Brady’s New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons – Lou makes the suggestion that the friends make the journey to Houston, Texas to see the player they love so much in action. This calls for a road trip, complete with an assortment of big name appearances, learning experiences, and wacky hijinks, as one would expect.
But even in trying to execute a basic caper of this sort, a combination of playing things too safe and faulty character development grinds this would-be saga to a halt. Save for some moments of levity that somehow rise above the complaisant noise that is the majority of this film, this movie shouldn’t have even qualified for training camp.
80 For Brady assembles a killer cast, but the movie doesn’t give them enough of a story to hang on to.
It’s a major disappointment that 80 For Brady, with its aforementioned roster of stars, is such a scattershot story that can’t build anything substantial. The talents of the cast are not in question, as the sports comedy has one of the best lineups you could hope for on a comedic road trip; it’s just so unfortunate that there doesn’t seem to be any interest in using anyone involved to their full potential.
What’s more, 80 For Brady has a hell of a supporting bench that feel wasted in the process of including threads that are introduced with minimal effort and wrapped up. Notable actors like Bob Balaban, Sara Gilbert, Harry Hamlin, and Glynn Turman are all present for a handful of scenes that seem like first draft attempts to give each of the ladies an obstacle to overcome during their journey.
Both the setup and resolution of each of these subplots is incredibly thin, even for a movie that’s barely over an hour-and-a-half – which is especially disappointing, as 80 For Brady is focused on a Super Bowl with a known outcome.
You need other stories like Sally Field learning to be more assertive with her milquetoast husband (Balaban) to keep the energy going, otherwise we pretty much know where this is all headed from frame one. Dispatching of those stories with simple three to five scene arcs doesn’t get that job done, and the movie instead treats the individual growth of the lead characters as nothing more than perfunctory tasks.
A short movie turns into a long slog without an interesting narrative, and very few worthy gags.
The lack of fuller character development doesn’t totally hamper the sort of movie that 80 For Brady is trying to be, as this is a cast of legendary pros that still give it their all. Those talents are simultaneously a blessing and a curse, as Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field, and Rita Moreno absolutely make the finished product more enjoyable than it could have been. At the same time, these women deserved material that really let them and their co-stars shine.
One of the most frustrating paradoxes at the movies is when a project can feel both too short and yet interminably long. 80 For Brady deserves some credit for achieving this feat in its 98 minutes of screen time, and in a movie that uses a high-adrenaline game of football and an extended drug trip as plot points.
Sally Field and Rita Moreno in particular seem to have the most fun with what they’re assigned to do in this story. Specifically, they make the middle act into the most enjoyable, as they experiment with negging and indulging in poker. Moreno’s Maura even has a moment where she hallucinates that everyone in the room looks like Guy Fieri, herself included.
There are sparks of the wild energy you’d expect from a script penned by Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern, who also happen to be two of the writers behind the hysterical Booksmart. Plus, a road trip comedy that has quite a few notable celebrity cameos and castings, on top of several prominent football players as themselves, sounds, on paper, like it could have been a lot of fun. There are smiles and chuckles to be had, but they’re so few and far between that it makes the big picture drag overall.
I really am puzzled how a formula like 80 For Brady could stumble so hard, never coming close to the end zone when trying to entertain. Looking back at all of the components involved, on top of roster of Fonda, Tomlin, Field, and Moreno, I’m not so sure where this project went wrong. What I can say is that even Tom Brady fans might find themselves scratching their heads as to why this movie was even made.
I get that the whole pitch that sold the movie was a real life group of older women who loved Tom Brady, but it feels obvious they never got into any of these shenanigans. I also understand that another purpose that 80 For Brady is also out to fulfill is to get older moviegoers back to cinemas – and that is also valid, because there have been absolutely hysterical flicks in the past made for that demographic.
With both of those concepts firmly in mind, I still believe that there’s a better, bolder version of this comedy that we could have enjoyed. We’ve seen as much through Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda’s run on Netflix’s Grace and Franky, which only makes me wonder if there’s a longer, raunchier edit that’s sitting on a shelf somewhere that was cut down.
That’s the most plausible theory I can come up with for the version of 80 For Brady that we got, other than the embellishments made to this real life fandom just weren’t strong enough as written. The only play that this movie knows how to run is playing it safe, and that deserves quite the penalty when working with such potential.