When I first heard about “80 For Brady”, one thought crossed my mind (along with, as a diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan, why would anyone want to make a movie about Tom Brady?):
Is this concept based on a true story?
And I learned the answer is Yes – sort of. Five Massachusetts women of a certain age, best friends in their “Over 80 For Brady” group, loved watching Patriots games every Sunday. The grandson of one of the women (a screenwriter), director Kyle Marvin (“The Climb”), Paramount, and Tom Brady himself came together decided to take this fact and turn it into a movie.
As usual, Hollywood expanded and enhanced the truth for the sake of art. In “80 For Brady”, the number of women is four instead of five. Most of the characters’ names were changed. And, oh yeah, the storyline in the movie revolves around the seniors going to the Super Bowl (which didn’t happen in real-life).
Writers Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins get credit for mashing-up the concept of a group of AARP GOAT fans and Super Bowl LI. Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno and Sally Field star as the gal-pals who want to finally see Brady in action in person… before it’s too late.
During a memorable weekend in Houston, Field’s Betty participates in a spicy food contest hosted by Guy Fieri; Tomlin’s Lou makes the crowd go wild with football tossing and gets a little wacky after eating some spiked gummies; Moreno’s Maura ends-up in a celebrity poker tournament. And Fonda’s Trish (a romance novelist with a thing for Pats TE Rob Gronkowski) catches the eye of former NFL player Dan (played by a well-cast Harry Hamlin).
Hovering over the trip is potential bad news from Lou’s doctor, and with past and present relationship issues involving the other three women.
“80 For Brady” attempts to score with multiple audiences in multiple ways. There are goofy moments and crazy hijinks for older moviegoers and fans of these actresses. For sports fans, there are plenty of authentic details, including a significant amount of seamlessly incorporated footage of Super Bowl LI in a climactic third act (courtesy of NFL Films). And there are attempts at comedy intended to please everyone, led by a pair of Boston radio commentators (Rob Corddry and Alex Moffat, who are in the film too much). Everything is all well intentioned.
But a bizarre mix of camp and authenticity, fantasy and reality, makes “80 For Brady” a weird, almost dream-like experience. I smiled throughout, thanks to something either silly, absolutely ridiculous, outrageous or cringe-worthy happening on screen. There’s a motivational speech Tomlin delivers to someone late in the movie that makes you genuinely question whether the writers were in on the joke.
The fact that most of the cast plays things straight also makes you question things. They can’t really believe they’re making a serious film — or can they? The worst acting performance is delivered by Brady (who also had his own hairstylist — a fact that adds to the film’s absurdity score). He appears in-person, on TV monitors and even as a talking bobblehead. (Like I said, this film is a trip.)
Sara Gilbert and Bob Balaban have thankless minor roles. Billy Porter, as choreographer Gugu, dances with the ladies in a halftime show audition routine. Diane Warren’s upbeat closing credits song, “Gonna Be You”, is performed by five iconic female music legends: Dolly Parton, Belinda Carlisle, Cyndi Lauper, Gloria Estefan and Debbie Harry (who does not appear in the official music video, which played before the preview screening I attended). With Warren’s Oscars track record, there’s a good chance these ladies will all be performing the tune at next year’s Academy Awards.
“80 For Brady” is sugary fluff, off the charts corny and highly sentimental. The material and overall execution are far from perfect, and yet it’s one of the more enjoyable movie experiences I’ve had in the past few years.
One group of people who, under no circumstance, should watch this movie are Atlanta Falcons fans. They will not want to re-live the horror of Feb. 5, 2017. For everyone else, grab a seat and enjoy a wacky ride — with or without gummies.
LCJ GRADE: C+
Running Time: 98 min.