The new Happy Madison production, Home Team, opens with Sean Payton (Kevin James) discovering that life can be difficult when you’re the coach of an NFL team.
On the one hand, Payton coached the New Orleans Saints to a Super Bowl victory and gave hope to a city that was still struggling to recover from the mental, physical, and spiritual damage done by Hurricane Katrina. At a time when David Fincher was bringing everyone’s spirits down with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Sean Payton was raising them up with excellent football.
On the other hand, it was later discovered that the players were being paid extra to deliberately injure their opponents.
The NFL reacts to this scandal by suspending Payton for a year. Payton abruptly goes from having a luxurious office in New Orleans to living and working out of a hotel suite in Argyle, Texas. He spends his suspension trying to reconnect with his son, Connor (Tait Blum). And when he discovers that Connor is playing football for his sixth grade team, Sean can’t stop himself from stepping up and trying to help Troy (Taylor Lautner) and Mitch (Gary Valentine) coach the team. Soon, Payton actually is coaching the team himself! And though he’s winning games, he’s also pushing the players too hard. Can Sean Payton rediscover the simple love of doing your best and being a member of a team or is he destined to return to New Orleans and continue to hand out bonuses for injuring other players? What do you think?
Now, I’ll just be honest and admit that I’m not a football fan. I don’t really know much about Sean Payton or the whole targeting scandal. I do know about CTE and the dangers of suffering multiple concussions in a short period of time so I do feel safe in assuming that the implications of the targeting scandal were a bit more serious than the way they’re portrayed in the film. But, then again, this is a football film that was produced by Adam Sandler’s production company. Was anyone expecting it to be a serious examination of the dangers of playing pro or even amateur football? Instead, it’s a film that pretty much features every cliché in the book, from the team of underdogs that no one believed in to the down-and-out coach who has something to prove to both the doubters and to himself. There’s the usual mix of sentimental drama and equally sentimental comedy. Surprisingly for a Happy Madison production, there’s only one glaring case of gross-out humor. For whatever reason, there’s apparently a lot of people who find projectile vomiting to be entertaining. I’ve never cared much for it myself but, just as I have to be honest about not knowing much about Sean Payton, I should probably also be honest about the fact that I’m not this film’s target audience.
Kevin James is a likable actor, though his talents are definitely better served by television than by the movies. He gives a rather subdued performance here, one that was no doubt influenced by the fact that Sean Payton is still alive. Even when he rediscovers the joy of playing football and realizes that there are things more important than winning, James-as-Payton still comes across as being strictly business. You get the feeling that, with the exception of his son, the film’s Sean Payton will probably have no further contact with the kids he coached once he returns to New Orleans. In the film, it just comes across as something for him to do to pass the time.
Home Team is a fairly forgettable sports movie. It’s not particularly good but it’s not particularly terrible either. Instead, it’s typical of the adequate but not extremely memorable films that Netflix specializes in when no one is looking to win an Oscar.