The four indelible stars of 80 for Brady — Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno and Sally Field — have a combined age of 335 years but are not the least bit inclined to act like it in this highly concocted but sassy, good-natured wish-fulfillment comedy. The film is as silly and contrived as all get-out and you can’t help feeling that, with a cast this good, it’s a shame that a script worthy of the actresses’ combined talents couldn’t have been found and put to much better use. Still, if you’re at all inclined to spend a couple of hours in the company of four ultra-talented ladies doing dopey and rambunctious things to worm their way into the Super Bowl to behold their sports hero Tom Brady in person, then this is your ticket.
Since the 45-year-old Brady won’t be playing in the Super Bowl this season, some fans might, as consolation, decide to go see this film, in which the now-ex-star quarterback appears not only on the field, in footage of his incredible comeback in the 2017 Super Bowl but also “as himself” in feel-good scenes in the concluding minutes. Brady — also a producer of the film — handles the assignment with the same ease he usually showed when passing to Rob Gronkowski, who amiably turns up here as well.
But the ladies come first, as well they should. Instigating the road trip from Boston to Houston is Lou (Tomlin), a retired MIT professor recovering from chemotherapy. Paged to join her are Trish (Fonda), a former beauty queen and keyed-up extrovert who’s still looking for Mr. Right in her mid-80s; Maura (Moreno), living in a retirement home and missing her late husband; and Betty (Field), in her mid-70s the youngest of the bunch and a math teacher rather comically devoted to her husband (Bob Balaban).
Considerably more could have been made of the long drive itself, with the ladies laughing, jabbering, arguing, amusingly filling in additional and welcome backstory and having a couple of little adventures along the way. But no, screenwriters Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern, who penned 2019’s Booksmart, and Kyle Marvin, in his feature directorial debut, are impatient to send them to their destination as soon as they can. Scarcely a scrap is revealed about their lives from this point on; they just intend to be good-time girls until it’s time to go home.
However, their plans appear to be scuttled right off the bat when they lose their precious tickets and certainly can’t afford to pay scalpers for new ones. But getting them replaced just triggers the first of a succession of serendipitous events that turn the old gals’ Super Bowl weekend into the kind nonstop party that they never could have imagined but always will remember.
Despite being nobodies in Houston, the gals’ luck turns and they get into every party and meet everyone worth meeting, beginning with players (in both senses of the word) such as famous footballers Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, who amusingly show up for substantial cameos. As in a dream come true, the ladies are swept along from party to party, and this fantastical interlude is probably the most amusing stretch in the film.
Dedicated fans will remember this game forever, as it featured the greatest come-from-behind victory in Super Bowl history. The Atlanta Falcons led 28-3 in the third quarter; no one had ever witnessed a come-from-behind victory as dramatic as this one, and its recapitulation in the film arguably is even too tight. You want to see even more greatness than is included here, which is formidable.
What you do see, however, is a fitfully amusing, if entirely innocuous account of a cute little sidebar to a major sporting event, and it’s the ladies who carry the day, or at least will for its intended audience.
Are we to take Brady’s entrance into Hollywood movies as a sign of his future career interests? Despite having the requisite looks, it would be difficult to accept him as anyone other than himself.
Paramount releases the film Friday for the pre-Super Bowl weekend.
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