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Walt Disney Home Video presents
Invincible (2006)

"Welcome to the Eagles."
- Coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear)

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: January 09, 2007

Stars: Mark Wahlberg
Other Stars: Greg Kinnear, Elizabeth Banks, Kevin Conway, Michael Rispoli, Michael Nouri
Director: Ericson Core

MPAA Rating: PG for sports action and some mild language
Run Time: 01h:43m:56s
Release Date: December 26, 2006
UPC: 786936721027
Genre: sports


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B BBA B-

DVD Review

Just call it Rocky on a gridiron. A loser adrift in the slums of South Philly gets his one-in-a-million shot, but it's not in the boxing ring; it's on the 50-yard-line at Veterans Stadium trying out for the Philadelphia Eagles. Vince Papale must endure adversity and crises of confidence, but his never-quit attitude pays off in the end, and earns him something far more meaningful than an NFL contract or a teammate's congratulatory slap on the ass. Self-respect is the prize, and it comes amid a swelling soundtrack, slow-motion photography, and the raucous cheers of thousands of extras in the stands. Oh yeah, he gets the girl, too, though she's not a mousy shrinking violet like Talia Shire; she's a sassy, hot blonde who's putty in Papale's wide-receiver hands. Cinderella herself couldn't have scripted a tidier fairy-tale fantasy.

Invincible, however, isn't a fantasy, and that's the major difference between it and Sylvester Stallone's prizefighting saga. While Rocky Balboa's travails are fictitious, the struggles of football journeyman Papale are based on—check that, "inspired by"—fact. Truth is often stranger than fiction (and more riveting), but when someone's "truth" is reduced to a string of clichés for the sole purpose of pleasing the movie-going public and fattening the wallets of studio executives, the tale loses its bite and trivializes the life depicted on screen. No doubt, Papale is an inspirational figure, but after seeing so many reality-based Disney sports films in the same vein—Remember the Titans, The Rookie (which Invincible strongly resembles), Miracle, Glory Road, and the current We Are Marshall—with equally admirable, against-all-odds heroes, Invincible feels like a retread.

And that's a shame, because Papale's improbable journey from part-time bartender to gridiron professional is quite a story, even when one discounts the liberties screenwriter Brad Gann takes with it. A floundering 30-year-old who's just lost his substitute teaching job and spends more time playing touch football with his blue-collar buddies than building a life with his wife (who soon walks out on him), Papale (Mark Wahlberg) tries out for a spot on the 1976 Eagles after newly appointed coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) announces an unprecedented open call. Vermeil never dreams such a wild publicity stunt would yield any serious prospects; he's just hoping to drum up enthusiasm for his cellar-dwelling team and win back the loyalty of disillusioned fans. Papale, however, impresses him with his talent and hustle, and Vermeil invites him to training camp. With gritty resolve, Papale endures the jibes of the Eagle veterans and survives cut after brutal cut until he finally wins a position on the team—and becomes the oldest rookie in NFL history (a distinction that still stands).

Nothing against Papale, but even if I could divorce this story from Disney's relentless barrage of similar-themed movies, my blasé opinion of it wouldn't change. Yes, it's competently made, decently acted, and family-oriented, but it doesn't possess enough conflict, suspense, or narrative drive to maintain interest. The crux of the plot revolves around Papale's struggle to beat the odds and make the team, but when the outcome has already been telegraphed via trailers, TV commercials, and ESPN, the struggle no longer becomes Papale's, but rather the viewer's to hang on until the euphoric final act. As a portrait of perseverance, Invincible certainly succeeds, and hopefully—in the grand Disney tradition—it will inspire young kids to pursue their dreams, even when in the grip of misfortune and self-doubt. But without any potent social issues (like the racism that affected the team in Glory Road) or political underpinnings (like the Cold War shadings of Miracle), the film doesn't resonate beyond Papale himself, and feels shallow as a result.

Wahlberg may be a little shrimpy to play in the NFL, but he's nevertheless perfectly cast as Papale, and his physique, pugnacious attitude, and working-class accent allow him to melt into the role. He's also a man's-man, so even when he's forced to spit out some of Gann's sappy dialogue, he never compromises his masculinity. Kinnear makes a very convincing Vermeil, balancing the coach's external toughness with enough internal insecurity to get his character off the film's sidelines and onto its playing field. Elizabeth Banks portrays Papale's generic girlfriend, but the biggest obstacle the couple must overcome is her rabid devotion to the New York Giants.

Invincible never lives up to its title, but it's tough not to embrace Vince Papale's uplifting story. At the end of the day, he's the one who deserves a statue in Philly, not Rocky.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: A dull, yellowish cast pervades the transfer (perhaps to emphasize the drabness of life in South Philly), which never allows the image to burst forth and dazzle our senses. Many scenes seem overly dark, and even the gridiron sequences lack the color depth necessary to immerse us in the action. ESPN-HD this ain't.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Disney DVDs have always featured great sound, and Invincible is no exception. The 5.1 track features lots of subtle ambient activity that adds welcome atmosphere and detail to the film. Stereo separation across the front channels is also quite distinct, and the subwoofer supplies some rumbles when the players collide on the field. Dialogue is always easy to understand, and several 1970s tunes, performed by such artists as Jim Croce, Carole King, Steely Dan, Rod Stewart, and Ted Nugent, nicely fill the room.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
7 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Invisible, The Guardian, The Heart of the Game, Scrubs: The Complete Fifth Season, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Roving Mars, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (4-Disc Extended Edition)
1 Documentaries
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Vince Papale, producer Mark Ciardi, and writer Brad Gann; director Ericson Core and editor Jerry Greenberg
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Only a couple of extras beef up the disc, and the best is a 25-minute documentary on Papale's life. Becoming Invincible: The Story of Vince Papale is perhaps more interesting than Invincible itself, and required viewing for anyone remotely touched by Papale's character and accomplishments. More screen time devoted to Papale's childhood and the circumstances that inspired him to pursue his football dreams—as well as his life after the NFL and battle with cancer—would have been appreciated, but this slick, reverential film still offers a winning portrait of the man and the team he helped propel to the Super Bowl. Papale himself dominates the piece, and recalls how he was "willing to do anything and everything" to make the Eagles. Through his wide smiles and infectious enthusiasm, we can see how he was able beat the odds and attain success at the highest level, and why he's a popular motivational speaker today. Coach Dick Vermeil and quarterback Ron Jaworski are among the Eagles staffers who comment on Papale's drive and ability, while Wahlberg, Kinnear, director Ericson Core, and other behind-the-scenes personnel address the movie's production, on which the documentary's second half focuses.

Two audio commentaries always seem like overkill to me, especially when the film is mediocre, but Disney obviously disagrees. The studio includes a pair of commentaries, and if you only listen to one, pick the track featuring Vince Papale, screenwriter Brad Gann, and producer Mark Ciardi. Papale relates several anecdotes concerning his experiences at Eagles training camp, conveys his emotions at various stages, and discusses some differences between his life story and its treatment on film. He even gets a little teary when his on-screen alter-ego gets the word that he's made the team. Watching the film along with Papale, we get a more intimate perspective, and when he says, "It was never, ever about the money; it was just about finding myself and validating myself," we believe him.

The second commentary, with first-time director Ericson Core and editor Jerry Greenberg, is much drier in tone and concentrates on the film's technical aspects. Both men discuss their collaboration, the choices they made and the reasons behind them, and how Core did double duty as both director and cinematographer. Core also analyzes character motivations and the fine chemistry between the actors, and talks about how he hopes people view Invincible not as a football film, but as a chronicle of one man's individual struggle.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Invincible won't ever be remembered as one of the great sports movies, but its inspirational story and honest heart will win it some fans. It's certainly worth a rental, unless you've already OD'd on Disney's recent spate of similarly themed films.

 


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