In Vince We Trust: In-Vince-able Movie Review: "Invincible"

By Omar P.L. Moore/August 25, 2006

There's been Vincent Hanna (played by Al Pacino in "Heat"), Vincent (played by Tom Cruise in "Collateral"), and actors like Vince Vaughn and Vincent Price.  There have been many Vinces and Vincents -- both characters and real-life actors -- but here's Vince Papale, a South Philadelphia native who was (and still is) a passionate fan of the Philadelphia Eagles National Football League team.  Papale was down and out after his first wife abruptly left him, with nothing but a telephone to his name.  A bartender by trade and a part-time substitute teacher trying to make ends meet, the working-class Papale got caught up in the spirit of '76 -- in 1976 he tried out for Eagles head coach Dick Vermeil's open invitation try-outs to make the team -- and he made the team, against the odds.

"Invincible" chronicles this true story of Mr. Papale, which inspires director Ericson Core's film.  The film itself is a standard feel-good inspirational movie, and is not tremendously distinct from other films that have told real-life stories.  That said, "Invincible" is a picture-perfect example of a true story tailor-made for Hollywood.  It is fitting that its distributor is Disney -- the studio of the famous "when you wish upon a star . . . I'm going to Disney World!" commercials that championship-winning professional athletes in America participate in.  Indeed, Papale's story is the stuff of rags-to-riches.  Mark Wahlberg, who has distinguished himself in several films over the years, plays Papale, who nightly tends bar for Max (Michael Rispoli). 

The community that regularly saunters (or stumbles) into Max's Tavern are rabid Eagles fans, and in South Philly, anything less than green and white as the proud colors of the day is a no-no -- unless you are the cousin of Max -- Janet (Elizabeth Banks) -- who isn't afraid to wear her love for the arch-rival New York Giants on her sleeve, nor is she hesitant to exhibit her keen sports football knowledge.  As his chances of making the big-time unexpectedly come into play, Papale's romantic inclinations towards Janet take a back seat.  His bar buddies support him but at least one is bitterly resentful of him.  He has to scrounge cash from his father Frank (Kevin Conway), whom he has not always been on the best of terms with.


             Invincible Movie Stills: Mark Wahlberg, Greg Kinnear, Elizabeth Banks, Ericson Core     
                               Over to you: The real-life Vince Papale and, right, actor Mark Wahlberg as Vince Papale on screen in Ericson Core's "Invincible".  (Photos: Disney)

Vince also learns the school of hard knocks at Eagles tryout camp -- and endures taunts from fellow competitors and players who have already made the woeful Eagles team, which won just four games in the previous season back then.  Greg Kinnear, who plays Coach Vermeil, catches the legendary coach's mannerisms very well, and even spouts a few lines that are remarkably similar to those that he has in the summer sleeper hit "Little Miss Sunshine" -- he talks about losers again here.  More than anything, "Invincible" is about the intersection of fate -- Vince Papale on one end, and the Eagles (and Coach Vermeil) on the other.  Both needed each other more than they seem to know.  Papale helped infuse a franchise over three seasons, a franchise which Vermeil took to the Super Bowl in 1980, and Papale became a cherished figure in Philadelphia Eagles lore, and a big news story in the country, as well as the husband of Janet, in the process.

"Invincible", which was photographed by the director, has many scenes which are bathed in a summer sunset glow, attempting to reflect the 1970's and a time that was more idyllic perhaps.  These scenes are contrasted with the bright and icy cool shots of Vermeil and his wife as he enters the fray as the new head coach of the Eagles team in 1976.  Michael Nouri plays the Eagles owner.  One of the terrific aspects of the film is its soundtrack, which for those fans of the seventies era is laden with slower, contemplative songs, lazy ballads and disco tunes.  "Invincible" is worth a trip to the theater, but other than doing the good job of capturing the spirit of times and the desire to be successful, it could have been even better. 

"Invincible" is rated PG for mild language and sports violence.  The film's duration is 1 hour 45 minutes.

Copyright 2006.  All Rights Reserved.