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When American pro football players go on strike, Edward O’Neil (Jack Warden) the owner of the Washington Sentinels brings back veteran coach Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman) on a deal which sees McGinty in total control of team selections. Without regular players to choose from, McGinty chooses a team of players no one else wants including a prisoner (Michael Jace), a sumo wrestler (Ace Yonamine), a chain smoking Welsh kicker (Rhys Ifans) and a maniacal cop (Jon Favreau). To lead them, he brings in Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves), a one-time top college quarterback who dropped out of sight after one disastrous game. As if Falco doesn’t have enough problems on the field, his eyes are soon wandering off the field, in the direction of cheerleader director Annabell Farrell (Brooke Langton).

Vaunted as one of the lamest films of the year, The Replacements actually makes perfect brainless escapism for the testosteronically inclined. A common story about self-belief and getting a second chance in life, it's basically an American football version of Major League, complete with a team of oddball characters. There's a cop with a ferocious temper (Favreau), a sumo wrestler, and two giant nightclub bouncers. Standing in for Major League's base-stealing Wesley Snipes is the black guy who can outrun anyone (Jones) and standing in for Charlie Sheen's ex-con wild thing is the washed up – but not entirely finished - quarterback (Reeves, reprising his ex-tosser in Point Break). You know the story - the misfits come together, learn to get along, overcome the odds, and win the game (and Keanu gets the girl...). Not much to it really.

Commentary by director Howard Deutch is similarly uninspiring, showing us just how much The Replacements was improvised, be it in team huddles, plays, or pep talks from coach Gene Hackman. Deutch seems to have adopted the approach of keeping the camera rolling and letting the actors invent much of the dramatic and comedic highs. After all, he says, things can be "pasted together in the editing room later."

Orlando Jones comically hosts The "Making of The Replacements," though it's not particularly funny or much of a "making of" feature at all. I'd like to tell you what else Jones has starred in (he's hilarious in Evolution), or what director Howard Deutch has made before, but the cast and crew menu only lists character names. The longer "Making the plays: An actors guide to football" shows the cast learning to play ball from hired pros, even though Kenau "grew up playing hockey." Game sequences were shot during half time at Baltimore Ravens games, thus making the crowd and the camera angles look authentic. Jones jests that the "don't hit the guy in the red shirt" rule really meant don't hit Keanu during shooting.

Lame fun indeed, but Major League did it better for baseball, and for that matter Varsity Blues did it better for football. At least their hijinks were funny, and their problems were real. This is surface gloss, and we never really care for the character's plight - individually or as a team.
Shannon J. Harvey

Published August 2, 2001

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CAST: Keanu Reeves, Gene Hackman, Orlando Jones, Jon Favreau, Brooke Angton, Rhys Ifans, Jack Warden, Brett Cullen

DIRECTOR: Howard Deutch

RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: May 2, 2001

Interactive menus; Scene access; Audio Commentary with director Howard Deutch, "The Making of The Replacements" (HBO First look Special); "Making the Plays": An actors guide to football (aka Zen and the art of football); Languages in Dolby surround 5.1: English, Spanish, Italian. Subtitles: English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish,
Icelandic, Portugese, Hebrew, Polish, Greek, Czech, Turkish, Hungarian,Croation, Arabic, Romanian, Bulgarian. English and Italian for the hearing impaired.

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