Next to animated kid flicks with talking animals, sports films are among the most abundant and most unnecessary of cinematic experiences. Rarely are these stories appealing to anyone but the garden variety sports nut; though occasionally the plot is broadened to appeal to wider audiences.
Invincible follows the latter pattern, suffering from all the same formulaic, feel-good symptoms of other Disney-produced sports movies (see: Remember the Titans and The Rookie). Based on a true story, Invincible concerns everyman Vincent Papale (Mark Wahlberg), a 30-year-old part-time bartender and substitute teacher who tried out for the Philadelphia Eagles during that squad's nadir in the mid-'70s. Somehow he became the oldest rookie nonkicker in NFL history. His story is juxtaposed with the arrival of new head coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear, looking like a reject from Anchorman in his retro getup). Both are seen as outsiders, and the Eagles give the two newbies a rough welcome.
We first meet the hapless Vincent as his wife leaves him, inexplicably penning a note that tells him he'll never amount to anything. And the bitch took all his furniture! But redemption looms when Vermeil tries to reinvigorate his sorry team with an open casting call for new players. You know what happens next: Vincent reluctantly suits up for the tryouts, and amidst all the crackpots and fanatics, he stands out not only as the most well-muscled player but as the one with the best 40-yard sprint.
This is a Disney film, so don't expect North Dallas Forty after Vincent makes the squad. For families and middle-aged men with dreams of glory, Invincible lards on the schmaltz at every opportune moment. Aside from his abs, Wahlberg shows little to distinguish the acting chops seen in Boogie Nights and I ❤ Huckabees. Vincent has two emotions: festering anger, and kick-ass football mode. A blossoming though ill-timed romance (featuring the luscious Elizabeth Banks) also fails to ignite any passion from Wahlberg.
What Invincible does get right is a pleasantly frenetic style of cinematography on the playing field. The slo-mo shots are overkill, but there will be better camera work, and acting, when the Seahawks' season begins next month. TIFFANY WAN E