STUDIO: Walt Disney/Buena Vista
MSRP: $29.98
RUNNING TIME: 104 Minutes

  • Commentaries
  • "Becoming Invincible: The Story of Vince Papale" featurette

The Pitch

The story of real-life nobody turned sports legend Vince Papale is an inspiration to us all. Believe it or die!

The Humans

Mark Wahlberg. Greg Kinnear. Elizabeth Banks. Michael Nouri. Kirk Acevedo. Michael Rispoli.

"Thank you Lord for my fucked up fingers!"

The Nutshell

The latest in Disney’s line of inspirational sports movies (Miracle, The Rookie, Nightbreed), Invincible is about a guy who came from the working class backstreets of Philadelphia to not only earn a million-to-one chance for a tryout for his beloved Eagles but actually become one and an inspiration to cheesesteak gnawing men and women everywhere. Through heart, passion, and actual skill Vincent Papale (played here by Mark Wahlberg with fantastic hair) proved that, like that same year’s other Philly hero Rocky Balboa, the everyman can stand up and be counted. Counted to tackle people at least.

"Laugh it up and act like you know life, but only one of us fought The Hidden!"

The Lowdown

First of all, let me say that this is a really attractive movie. Sure, it’s delivered in a sepia infused and digitally assisted color palette which does a lot of its work for it, but it is a nice looking movie. It’s always nice to see what could have easily been a workmanlike bite of filmmaking turn into a rather lush little product. Director/Cinematographer Ericson Core is someone to keep an eye on, a rare director who might be one to eventually helm one of the big summer franchise movies we all find ourselves in swoon over. Until we see them, but that’s a discussion for another day.

The story begins with Vince and friends (including OZ‘s Kirk Acevedo finally playing a nice guy) watching yet another crushing end to yet another underwhelming Eagles season. Another offseason of grumbling in the town with the meanest fans [sorry, it’s true] and another half-year to deal with what was then a horrible time for employment. The town had little to be excited about.

Then Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) entered the scene and began to make waves.

The Border Patrol gets ready to take their lunch break.

Vermeil, recently hired from the sunny world of SoCal college football, wanted to shake things up with his new team, the most loud being the announcement of tryouts for the general public to get a crack at making the squad. Whether a publicity stunt or an actual attempt to mine talent from the City of Brotherly Love doesn’t matter here. It’s a film. You need some sort of catalyst. Vermeil’s decision causes a stir which leads substitute teacher/bartender Vince Papale getting his chance at the big boys. Does he make it? Uh, there’s a film called Invincible and it’s coming to DVD after a successful theatrical run. He makes it.

The fun of films like this isn’t the outcome. Unless you’re in a vegetative state like Steven Seagal was in Hard to Kill and every other day of his life, you know what’s going to happen. Even if the team doesn’t win the big game you know that the protagonist is going to discover the meaning of team or prove that he/she has the heart of a lion. It just has to happen. They don’t give the greenlight to films about underdogs who rise up against their challenges and then die of herpes in their sleep. I’d see that movie, though.

This is about reminding us that it can be done and the difference between a Rudy and your typical direct-to-video pile of roquefort is the execution. This film does a good job of building a somewhat interesting cast of supporting parts, all of which harmless and unthreatening. Mark Wahlberg does what he’s needed to do, which is be physically imposing and stare off into the distance searching his Philly soul. I’m a fan of Wahlberg, but this isn’t his role to run rampant with. He’s steady and convincing as Papale and the rare actor who can pull off athleticism without a hitch. Kevin Conway has a few solid moments as his Poppa, but for the most part this is a very straightforward cookie-cutter sports film. Poor Elizabeth Banks is given a very thankless role as the love interest, a subplot that carries little weight because Papale’s wife leaves him in the first few minutes of the film and the main conflict between the characters being that she’s a Giants fan. You can’t have our hero bedding Betty Brant fifteen seconds after the missus left him, even if it is Elizabeth Banks.

"Who let the hollowed-out head Private Ryan radioman on the team?"

I sort of liked Invincible but I don’t really know why. There’s no real pressure on display. Papale doesn’t exactly coast through the film but the tension between he and the teammates who don’t want him is never really developed, nor is his bond with Vermeil. It’s the definition of safe and in the same way I can’t muster must praise for the film it’s equally hard to bash it.

It’s a couple of hours of very solid filmmaking, performances that won’t incite laughter, and a trip down memory lane to that moment where we thought "hey, maybe I can". It’s certainly not something I’d say to hunt down or kill an ox in order to see but it’s nowhere near as pablum-friendly as some of the crap we’re asked to swallow.

By the way, is it called Invincible because his career was cut short by an injury? Just asking…

So much for Auto Focus.

The Package

There’s a few little things to gnaw on here, the primary asset being a documentary about the real-life Vince Papale, a guy who is so excited and positive and happy I’d have to run him through my cyborg detector. The guy is so giddy about life and this film and sports and his kids that it’s hard not to love him. How in the heck did this guy survive Philadelphia?

It’s a nice little featurette and intermingled with the film stuff, it’s the right kind of special feature. There’s also a commentary by the guy and a film of the behind-the-scenes guy and he’s the star of the show. It’s always great when you have the real guy doing a commentary track on a bio-pic, and this guy relishes the moment. Makes we wonder why they didn’t use the real Ghandi on Attenborough’s DVD…

The director has a track as well, shared with his editor. it’s a solid track but I have to admit that I’d get a little worried if I walked in on someone listening to the second of two commentaries from invincible unless they were really, REALLY big fans.

That said, you heard it here first: Ericson Core is gonna be somebody.

6.2 out of 10