STUDIO: Warner Brothers
RUNNING TIME: 350 minutes, 420 minutes
The Cowboys beat the Redskins three times and the Packers beat the Bears three times. Now on DVD. For people to watch, I suppose.
#33, #4, #12, #23, #17. Some coaches. Not Dick Butkus. Directed by some guy at Fox
Football games on DVD. I guess it also has menus. That’s that.
Brett Favre (one of Cameron Diaz’s many boyfriends in There’s Something About Mary) shows up and they were smart enough to not give him any lines. Every twenty minutes something happens that I understand. They made up a cool language. That’s all the good I can say about these two trilogies. I understand why whoever directed them decided to stay anonymous, there is nothing that shows that anyone was even at the helm here. What we get is six stories, all about towns that dislike each other and decided to resolve it using a live action version of Tecmo Bowl for the NES. Much like that classic game, the players can either pass or run with a ball and try to make a goal by reaching a large U shape marker on either side of a grass field. That’s it though, all you see is Tecmo Bowl and there isn’t even a hint of plot. A lot like Rollerball, things seem to be run by evil corporations who paint their logo everywhere. But nothing outside of the grass field is explored. It leaves the viewer with a lot of questions, such as why their version of the game has old guys dressed as Waldo enforcing arbitrary rules. And for some reason in their version standing in front of a player catching a ball isn’t an automatic conversion. By the end of the last game, their version of Tecmo Bowl resembles those odd Madden ripoffs more than the original game.
The Last Boy Scout tried a similar premise, but it was smart enough to have Taylor Negron and build a story around the absurd premise. Plus, guns. They don’t even bother with a proper title here, instead they just use a giant spoiler that takes away any suspense they could have had. If I had any idea the dynamic between the characters I maybe could have watched some great drama unfold, regardless of the outcome. But most of the characters don’t even get names and it’s hard to tell one from the other when they only bought two wardrobes for the whole cast. The narrators sure seem to think the game being played is part of some larger meta-game involving all the personalities and countless other teams. But it’s almost like they expect the viewer to know what they are talking about. Occasionally someone will take their helmet off and sit by the crowd to drink some Gatorade, but I never got a feel for who they were even in their most naked moments. The narrators changed with every game and never got a chance to really settle in, but they come out with the strongest personalities of anyone. They seemed excited and happy to witness Tecmo Bowl: Live Action. The script gives them their own made up language and lexicon. Things like nickel, blitz, and audible all have different abstract meanings in this world, and the narrators do their best to sell it. They even talk for the players, telling us how they feel and sometimes even giving us facts such as how long they slept the night before or how many years they have been playing. It helps sell the world a little, but they only give snippets of a much larger story left unexplored.
The two main teams presented are the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. Green Bay is a cold frigid land full of Viking people. Dallas is a hot southern city apparently also filled with huge Viking people. In this world, they each have a rivalry going with another city. Green Bay hates Chicago and Dallas can’t stand the whole state of Washington. For some reason. The “films” are each a two hourish random game from this rivalry. Without the context of how many people will die if they lose or if they can invade the rival land after one win or multiple wins, whats at stake during each game remains hopelessly lost. I got the sense that the crowds lives were being played for. The way the reacted to every hit and the giant gasp you hear when their side losses, life and death are almost certainly at stake. The narrators make some vague references to ring, but what power this ring wields is never explored. Is it akin to The One Ring? A status symbol? An entrance to an all powerful ruling secret society? You could argue they left the mythology open for a more realistic feel, but I can’t help but feel like I was missing something.
The action isn’t bad, when it actually happens. It starts and stop on whims and never lasts for more than a few seconds. The pulled back camera shows that these guys couldn’t possibly be using stunt doubles, and that’s probably why they didn’t give anyone lines, but it’s too far back to give the viewer any idea what is happening. Sometimes we are shown the action again in slow motion so you can really see what these guys can do, a technique stolen from Asian action films. But these scenes are usually hampered by obvious narration and an odd drawing effect over the action, a lot like the DVD commentary for Ghosbusters. It’s a strange directorial choice that really hinders the enjoyment of the action scenes. The whole thing is full of strange choices and repetitive stories. If you somehow understand the mythology and world at work here, you might have some interest in these sets. But going in blind, it seems like these “films” want to hurt the viewer more than they want to help.
The transfers give a good feel for the varying time periods the games are set in. The whole broadcast angle is really believable and sells the nineties segments even more than the bad hair and bright clothes. No extras are included, even a simple insert explaining why in their version of Tecmo Bowl the players aren’t required to dance every time they get a goal would have helped the average viewer.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars