Tom Brady may have seven Super Bowl rings, but that’s nothing compared to what may be the most successful group of legends ever assembled. Just take a look at the stats: First up is Jane Fonda with two Oscars, seven Golden Globes and two Tony nominations. Next up is Lily Tomlin, who has won six Emmys, two Tonys and a Grammy, and Sally Field, who is hot with two Oscars, three Emmys and two Golden Globes. Rounding out the team is EGOT herself, Rita Moreno. Count ’em: Oscar, Grammy, Tony and two Emmys as well as a Golden Globe for good luck. This fearsome foursome star in 80 for Brady, a story about a group of octogenarian football fans and a wild weekend at the 2017 Super Bowl.
Based on the trailers and ads for 80 for Brady, which starred these iconic actresses in dazzling New England Patriots jerseys and a head-turning blonde wig on Jane Fonda, the outlook for this cheeky football comedy seemed bleak. It’s a relief to report that 80 for Brady has a case of “bad trailer” and that the resulting film is funnier and more charming than expected.
Writing duo Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins (Booksmart, Trophy Wife) wrote the screenplay, while actor-producer Kyle Marvin (The Climb, WeCrashed) makes his directorial debut. Based on a unique group of true Tom Brady superfans, 80 for Brady sits at the intersection of Book Club and Fever Pitch.
Tomlin’s character Lou is at the heart of the film, the biggest superfan of them all, who enforces the group’s superstitions and encourages them to enter a free-ticket contest. Dashing around them is Trish (Fonda), a former “Mayflower Girl” who falls in love easily and often; the recently widowed and grieving Maura (Moreno); and Betty (Field), a smart-ass math professor at MIT who likes to remind everyone that she’s in her 70s, not her 80s. If the girls are lucky with the tickets, they’ll head to Houston to see the Super Bowl in person.
Oscar-winner John Toll’s cinematography is serviceable at best, and visually there’s not much to notice aside from Fonda’s rotating wig wardrobe, which is explained but doesn’t make her any less ostentatious. Her look matches Dolly Parton, who collaborated on a song for the film, making this a proper “9 to 5” reunion.
The comedy isn’t exactly groundbreaking, and the story beats are almost painfully predictable, but the picture holds together thanks to this group of legends and the script’s loose, absurdist humor. Marvin wisely cast the supporting cast with comedians and celebs to keep things fresh and fun for this quartet to bounce off, and Alex Moffat and Rob Corddry as the pair of Patriots commentators keep up a steady Boston-accented chatter that doesn’t hold us -Football folk following the action.
Of course, there are several cameos from former Patriots themselves, including Brady, who, if not overly impressively, makes his way through an act three speech. He’s at least a match for the hilarious hilarity, and as the film’s producer, it’s the sort of project that would fit LeBron James’ forays into Hollywood as he self-produced and starred in Space Jam and House Party.” remakes. Of course, the Tom Brady of 2022 is definitely not the Tom Brady of 2017, so watching the film without reflecting on how you see it today can be challenging for football fans.
But the real MVP of the movie is Sally Field, who feels the most natural and gets the funniest moments. Tomlin is saddled with the pathos, Fonda the romantic drama, while Fields Betty, freed from her needy mad professor-husband (Bob Balaban), enters a steamy wing-eating contest, gets high on edibles and first-time flirting tried out. It’s her liberating journey that makes the impossible possible for 80 for Brady, helping him come back from a pathetic trailer and score a touchdown.
Katie Walsh is a film critic for the Tribune News Service.
’80 for Brady’
Rated: PG-13, for short strong language, some drug content and some suggestive references
Duration: 1 hour, 38 minutes
To play: Launches February 3rd in general release