Monday, April 15, 2024

Review: All Star “80 for Brady” — with Fonda, Field, Tomlin, Moreno — Scores Touchdowns Even When Passes Aren’t Completed (I Liked It)


What if Barbarella, Edith Ann, Anita from West Story, and the Flying Nun made a movie together? That’s the question posed by “80 for Brady,” a totally delightful comedy starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Rita Moreno, and Sally Field.

None of those estimable actresses would want to be remembered for those roles. They all went on to glory in many realms, they are serious, tough cookies who have remained at the tops of their respective games for decades.

And now here are they are in a “Golden Girls” type film based on the true story of four suburban Boston ladies who were huge New England Patriots fans and mad for Tom Brady circa 5 years ago. So off they went to watch their team and their dreamboat at the Super Bowl in Houston. The Pats played a memorable game against the Falcons, Lady Gaga sang, and the women got their bucket list adventure.

Does it work? Yes. If “A Man Called Otto” is a hit, “80 for Brady” is right on target. The set up is too good to be true: lots of comedy with four legends plus lots of A plus championship football. (The footage is top notch and woven into the movie very well.) It can’t miss, right?

Well, “80 for Brady” scores even when not completing passes. What I mean, it succeeds despite itself. The women seem to be directing themselves using decades of invaluable experience. The actual director, Kyle Martin, doesn’t appear to have any involvement. Many jokes as written and directed land flat, with watered down payoffs. The movie is saved ultinately by the charm of our stars.

It does help that the movie is well cast. Bob Balaban, Harry Hamlin and Glyn Turman are excellent foils for the women. There are contributions from Patton Oswalt, Billy Porter, and Sara Gilbert. There’s even a cameo from the great Sally Kirkland. We’ve got music from heavyweights John Debney, cinematography from John Toll, production design by Wynn Thomas. We are in the movie stratosphere here.

So we’ll ignore the minor deficiencies because we’ve got two two-time Oscar winners in Fonda and Field, the first EGOT in Moreno, and six time Emmy winner, two time Tony Award winner, Grammy winner and Oscar nominee in Lily Tomlin, who plays the main instigator of the Super Bowl trip, Louella, who has a lot of little secret that will be revealed. Tomlin is better here even than in “Grace and Frankie, and she’s the lead. Fonda, no slouch, is hilarious with her selection of wigs and outfits. (She looks particularly foxy in a mahogany colored Farrah Fawcett number.) Her Trish is a niche Patriots fan fiction writer who looks 55, not 85. Moreno, at 90, is a spitfire. And Field, the youngster of the group at 75 (as she cutely constantly reminds us), still has a third Oscar in her future.

The main thing about “80 for Brady” is that it’s smart, it meets the audience head on and never talks down to us. Women will flock to it with or without husbands or boyfriends. And their dates, should they go, will be impressed with the sports aspect. Brady has nothing to apologize for in his cameo, and Gronk is a hoot, of course, when he meets Fonda’s Trish. So it’s a win-win for everyone except the 2017 Atlanta Falcons.

Hey–one day we’re going to see a movie like this with Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Susan Sarandon, and Diane Keaton– and we’ll love it.

PS Stay til the end, the Dolly Parton-Cyndi Lauper et al Diane Warren song fits perfectly after a shelf-full of disco and R&B chosen by star music supervisor Randall Poster.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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