Given the absolute decorative nature given to the four leading ladies of 80 For Brady – there’s 5 Oscar wins between them for starters – it’s a shame that such a throwaway, consistently silly comedy is what has brought together the powerhouse quartet that is Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno and Sally Field.
It’s evident the ladies are enjoying themselves, and I suspect the target audience will easily digest the inoffensive nonsense that screenwriters Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins have conjured here, but good intentions and a kind heart does not always a good movie make, and 80 For Brady is, sadly, a pedestrian effort at best; how Halpern and Haskins went from the supremely superior Booksmart to this is anyone’s guess.
Inspired by a true story, but peppered with situational set pieces that the creatives clearly hope are wacky enough to mask how witless it all is, Kyle Marvin‘s comedy of geriatric errors sees the lifelong friendship of Lou (Tomlin), Trish (Fonda), Maura (Moreno) and Betty (Field) come to the ultimate culmination when, in 2017, they win the chance to attend the Superbowl. If the title hadn’t clued you in, the “Brady” refers to the now-retired Tom Brady, oft-considered the greatest quarterback of all time, who led the New England Patriots to a historic win during the period in which the film is set.
As a producer on the film, as well as making sporadic appearances throughout, it would be easy to dub this a vanity project of sorts, but the focus is mainly on our leading ladies and, thankfully, their combined chemistry outshines any of Brady’s self-serving notions. Sure, Lou’s own tragic story of surviving cancer being related to how watching Brady play football was a saviour of sorts is a little self-congratulatory, but given how important the Superbowl and football culture is to American audiences – which this film feels tailor made for – it makes perfect sense in the grand scheme of 80 For Brady‘s personality.
The emphasis on the game and its importance to its devoted fans, as well as an extended cameo from American restauranteur-turned-media personality Guy Fieri, speaks to the particular American-ness of the proceedings, and local audiences (especially the age range to which the film is aimed at) are likely to feel even more of a disconnect to the supposed comedic and emotional outlay it hopes to project. Of course, for every set-piece that may have audiences scratching their heads asking “Who?” there’s just as many “Why’s?” around the corner, with supposedly humorous sequences involving all four of them reacting strangely to unknowingly eating edibles at a fancy party and an embarrassingly executed dance number as they attempt to fool security by claiming to be Lady Gaga’s back-up dancers serving as the narrative’s height of comedic sophistication.
It doesn’t make enough of an impact to be woundingly memorable, and, really, Tomlin, Fonda, Moreno and Field deserve so much better, but there’s enough heart and chemistry here that it’ll likely make you smile, even if this children’s film for retirees is a little too sickly-sweet in its optimism and induces more groans than needed in its comedic attempts.
TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
80 For Brady is screening in Australian theatres from April 27th, 2023.