Last Watch Date - September 7, 2022
Total Times Watched - Pfft, probably a dozen times by now
BACK TO SCHOOL with this classic screwball football movie about a ragtag group of "regulars" who take to the field after crippling sanctions. If you, like me, watch this right before or after The Program, you'll very quickly notice MANY of the players are the same people. Different positions in some cases, but it's kind of funny to see the same guys.
This movie came out two years before The Program and has a vastly different tone, but it shares some similarities beyond the cast. The QB is older than portrayed, although Scott Bakula was only playing a few years difference (37 playing 34). The fake school plays a bunch of real schools. There's a bunch of on-field action (though it's far better in The Program). There's a bar fight! Corny love plot. But that's about the end of it.
If you've ever heard of the SMU Mustangs, you've probably also heard they got the "death penalty" from the NCAA back in 1987. This team, the Texas State Armadillos, is basically the post-death penalty Mustangs had they immediately played. When it starts, it goes over the laundry list of violations and issues including paying players, steroid use, doctored grades.. pretty much everything that The Program addresses. You could see The Program as a sort of serious prequel to this comedy take on the aftermath. And let me be clear here, this movie never takes itself seriously. There's a whole lot of slapstick comedy involved throughout, possibly with my favorite part coming with the referee describing the various martial arts moves used in a personal foul. You also have Rob Schneider as the game commentator with his style of commentary. It's silly and fun.
I have a ton of memories watching this as a kid, and the halftime speech in the final game of the season against the Texas Colts (ALSO A FAKE TEAM) was still funny to me. Shit, the pre-game speech was great too. "I don't want to put any undue pressure on you guys, but his last words were 'Win.. or I'll die.'" That's classic stuff right there, bud. I also obviously remember Kathy Ireland who has a cute face and a very bizarre voice. It's almost cartoon-like but it doesn't fit her body. Her kicking mechanics are hilarious.
The cast is great. You have Scott Bakula leaping into the body of a 34-year old farm owner who goes back to play college ball. Hector Elizondo plays the strait-laced coach who won't allow any shenanigans. Jason Bateman is the preppy nerd who bonds with the team as halfback. Sinbad is Sinbad. I'll always enjoy how over-the-top Samurai is. And Manu (Peter Tuiasosopo) is pretty damn lovable.
Some FUN FACTS about this movie and sports in general: the Southwest Texas State Bobcats eventually became the real Texas State. They still play as the Bobcats. And the sTu helmet logo isn't really a Texas A&M reference, it's the same helmet that Texas Southern uses (though they're not green).
Overall this movie is both predictable and refreshing in a way. Sure they win the big game at the end, but they're also 0-8-1 at that point. The win is more of a feel-good for the team that really shouldn't even be there. They have 17 total players on roster with 1 sub for offense and defense (Blake on offense, Samurai on defense). It doesn't really do well with building tension but it's not really trying that hard. It's more about the goofiness that comes from the rough situations rather than the redeeming arc of a football team.
In the mood for a goofy sports slapstick movie? Then yeah!