The Vince Papale Story
Based upon the true story of Vince Papale, who in 1976 at the age of 30 tried out for the Philadelphia Eagles, "Invincible" starring Mark Wahlberg could be classed as yet another cliche ridden, underdog sports movie. To be honest if you are not a fan of this type of movie then the joy of "Invincible" will no doubt be lost on you as it is an inspiring movie which although doesn't really bring anything new to the genre keeps you for the most entertained.
After another disastrous season in the NFL the new coach of The Philadelphia Eagles, Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear - Little Miss Sunshine), decides to open try outs to anyone from Philadelphia who thinks they have what it takes. Spurred on by his friends, local bartender Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg - Four Brothers) reluctantly goes to see if he has what it takes despite being older than your average try out.
Even though I find "Invincible" an enjoyable and inspiring movie it does have some serious issues which will no doubt disappoint a lot of people, especially those who enjoy sports movies. A huge issue is that "Invincible" is a Disney movie and like some other sports based Disney movies "Invincible" has a feeling of being a bit too clean, which isn't helped by it being director Ericson Core's first major movie.
The whole emphasis of "Invincible" seems to be on giving the audience a feel good, inspiring experience and there is nothing wrong with that, but in doing so it lacks the real emotional highs and lows which you would expect from a sporting underdog story. What you end up getting is a movie which delivers a peak but it doesn't have the great impact you expect and need as when things go bad for the lead character they are not played on enough to show how really bad they are. Basically what "Invincible" needs is a bit of dirt, grit and roughness to give the viewer the emotional rollercoaster ride that the movie and viewer deserves.
I suppose the flip side of this is that "Invincible" is an entertaining family movie which no doubt some younger audiences will enjoy who would not have had that pleasure if it had been made a little more realistic. Personally I would have preferred for it to be a bit more raw and brutal showing the harshness of the situation rather than trying to make it family friendly.
The next issue is in the way the characters in "Invincible" come across, and again I can point the finger of blame at Disney for turning "Invincible" into a family movie. Take Mark Wahlberg in the main role of Vince Papale, he doesn't look out of place on the football field, he comes across as likeable and someone you can cheer on but his character is flat and that is not a criticism of Mark Wahlberg as an actor. It just feels like his ability as an actor was being restrained so that at any point when you would expect any sort of real grit, anger and emotion to come from him he has been told to hold back and mute the anger. The same can be said of Greg Kinnear in the role of Coach Dick Vermeil, the character and performance has been so sanitized that it becomes like a soft caricature of what you would expect a Coach would be. There is no real aggression or passion rather than what appears to be an overly nice person.
As for the supporting cast which features Elizabeth Banks as a love interest and Kevin Conway as Vince Papale's dad, well to be honest they were the only ones which really made any impact. The rest of the supporting cast and characters were just not really interesting and those which should have been critical to the story seemed to have been toned down to the extent that they were wasted. At one point there is an undercurrent of tension between Vince and one of the regulars in the bar but it is never played upon to show it in an honest aspect, instead using it to build Papale as being an all round nice guy, which I am sure he was and still is, but it feels wrong even fake.
But despite these flaws I can appreciate "Invincible" for what it is, a family movie which is entertaining and achieves its goal of being inspirational. It is what I would call an all round crowd pleaser which no doubt will receive harsher criticism from those who expected a much grittier adaptation of the Vince Papale story. Hopefully in a few years someone will decide to make a new movie about Papale and not restrain the story or characters so that you get the real feel for what this legend went through.
I couldn't help but end this "Invincible review" with a comparison to another Philadelphia legend, all but a fictional one, that of Rocky played by Sylvester Stallone. The story of Vince Papale and Rocky Balboa have a lot in common, both based in Philadelphia, both an under dog story, both set in the 70s but the fictional tale of Rocky has a lot more impact than that of Papale's and that is down to the overly sanitized production of "Invincible".