Space Jam meets The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in 80 For Brady, a truly bizarre, frequently incompetent yet defiantly silly retiree comedy, which brings together Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Rita Moreno and Sally Field as four devoted Tom Brady stans desperate to see their hunky hero play in a famously dramatic 2017 Super Bowl. These women are among the most decorated, celebrated screen legends in living memory (five Oscars and 12 nominations between them), so it feels almost perverse that they’ve finally all come together for this totally insane, American-to-its-core farce.
The tone of this thing is just violently ridiculous. In order to pad out the very basic plot — characters go watch some sports — it lurches from one wacky set piece to another: The gang try edibles! The gang pretend to be Lady Gaga’s backing dancers! The gang win a hot wings contest with actual Guy Fieri! Most of the comedy here ranges from so-bad-it’s-good to just bad. Yet each leading lady gets their own ‘serious’ subplot, too: Rita Moreno is grieving her late husband, Lily Tomlin is recovering from cancer, Jane Fonda is perennially unlucky in love, Sally Field is trapped in a stale, academic marriage. There is also room for crushingly earnest, sincere moments of friendship between the women. It is all, admittedly, warmly felt, the chemistry between the actors never in doubt.
The direction is pedestrian. The script is barely coherent. Tom Brady cannot act.
Much of what transpires might get lost in translation on its journey to this side of the Atlantic: the arcane rules of American football remain a baffling mystery to most people outside The States, and Tom Brady (who cameos as himself here) is probably best known to Brits as ‘Gisele Bündchen’s ex’. In fact, the whole enterprise is a case study in pure Americana: there are cowboy boots; there are sequinned football jerseys; there are egregious product placements; there are Brady’s cheekbones, seemingly carved by Lady Liberty herself — and at the heart of it all, there is the Super Bowl, which seems to hold a mythological, almost healing property to those who worship at its altar. As an anthropological study of the American psyche, 80 For Brady is a fascinating and important document.
At a straightforward filmmaking level, however, it is not a good film. The direction is pedestrian. The script is barely coherent. Tom Brady cannot act. It cannot in all good conscience be recommended. But it has a good heart, and whichever side of 80 you’re on, for both the right reasons and many of the wrong ones, it will probably make you smile.