Directed by: Ericson Core
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Greg Kinnear, Elizabeth Banks, Kevin Conway
Predictable and safe in the tradition of Disney Studios, Invincible shows us once again that they have perfected the formula, and cornered the market on the uplifting, inspirational sports movie. The formula works in the sense that it's impossible for the movie to be horrible, but at the same time, is unable to reach anything even resembling greatness. Instead, what you are left with is a film that is simply pedestrian, and ultimately, forgettable.
Invincible tells the "true life" story (the number-one criterion on the list of any sports movie of this ilk) of Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg), a life-long Philadelphia Eagles fan who manages to overcome all odds (the second part of the formula), and gain a spot on the roster of his hometown Eagles in the mid-'70s. This, in turn, lifts the spirits of the downtrodden city of Philadelphia (ingredient number three of Disney's technique). Add in Mark Isham's rousing, inspirational score, a few songs from a "Greatest Hits of 1976" album, some of the ugliest clothes ever committed to celluloid and lots and lots of facial hair, and you've got your movie.
Think 1993's Rudy meets 2003's Seabiscuit (just switch Notre Dame and the Great Depression for Philadelphia, and Sean Astin and a horse for Mark Wahlberg), and you get the basic idea. Anyone who can't figure out where the movie is going from reel one has either never seen a movie in his or her life, or was simply never paying attention in the first place.
The only glaring problem with the film is a sense of detachment. Philadelphia is presented as a working-class city in economic turmoil whose inhabitants live vicariously through Papale and the Eagles: Papale's triumphs are supposed to be the city's as well. This never really works due to the fact that the scenes of economic struggle in Philadelphia (which seem to consist of one labor union strike) feel tacked on. There's no emotional connection with the viewer, so you're never given a reason to really care.
The film is kept afloat by the performances of Wahlberg and Greg Kinnear as Eagle's head coach Dick Vermeil, both very likable screen presences. (Invincible also seems to perpetuate the idea that Wahlberg cannot make a truly horrible movie, and seems to have made all of his bad career decisions early on when he was with The Funky Bunch.) First-time director Ericson Core is capable enough for this type of movie, though his style is strictly utilitarian, and the look of the film is washed-out and drab, despite the fact that Core spent his career up to now as a cinematographer (though Daredevil (2003) and The Fast and the Furious (2001) are not exactly projects to brag about).
In the end, what you get is a film that accomplishes exactly what it set out to do -- be a crowd-pleaser for the majority of moviegoers, in exchange for being wholly forgettable. Rated PG for sports action and some mild language.
-- reviewed by Justin Souther