The year is 1976 and Vince Papale is a part time substitute teacher recently released from his job, a part time barman and separated from his wife. Vince is also an avid Philadelphia Eagles fan who plays Football games with his friends on the local backlots.
Following a disastrous season in 1975, new Eagles coach, Dick Vermeil, decides upon a bold strategy to inject some new blood into the team - an open try-out session. Following some goading and encouragement by his friends, Papale attends the session and amongst the various out of shape would bes and over zealous Eagles fans, Papale defies the odds and is selected to attend Training Camp.
Against a backdrop of team mates who want the 30 year old Papale to fail and burdened by the expectations of a group of friends who are either out of work or fighting to keep their jobs, Vince has to call on courage and resources that have never been tested before and repay the faith shown to him by Vermeil.
This film from the Disney follows a path laid out by films like Rocky and Disney's own baseball predecessor, The Rookie, where a man with an outside chance is given his shot at greatness.
Whilst this is a fictionalized account of a true story, the script and direction is functional and predictable - let's face it this is a Disney film and you don't seriously think that the lead character is going to fail?
Mark Wahlberg is a suitable lead in the role of Papale. He gets to show the various facets of what is expected of the "hero" character in a Disney sports film - self doubt, courage in the face of odds stacked against him and determination to succeed despite those odds. In addition to those qualities, he also has an easy-going charm and an athleticism that doesn't make the character look fake.
Greg Kinnear portrays Dick Vermeil, and even though he does well in the role as a coach, he isn't given the opportunity to portray a coach under pressure to deliver and the problems he faces are very much off stage, except in the case of a hostile television press. Whilst I appreciate that this is very much Vince's story, it would have been nice to have seen more of the story from Vermeil's perspective.
Elizabeth Banks co-stars as Janet Cantrell, the cousin of Vince's pub landlord employer, and whilst this would traditionally be the "girlfriend" role, this isn't the case for the majority of the film - in fact she only becomes Vince's girlfriend late on in the film, for most of the time she is a friend and support to Vince - and a solid job Banks makes of it too.
Solid is also what I would describe the main supporting cast who run the gamut of relationships you would expect in a group of friends and family. You have Vince's father (Kevin Conroy) who tries to keep Vince's feet on the ground; Max, Tommy and Pete (Michael Rispoli, Kirk Acevedo and Michael Kelly) who look to Vince to inspire hope in them in the face of various personal difficulties; and the beaten down, cynical and frightened Johnny (Dov Davidoff) who has lost all hope.
Yes, it is your stereotypical hokey Disney sports film where the good guys always win and the only enemy is the hero's own self doubt.
Whilst not being flashy or spectacular, this is a solid film and one that I'd recommend should you be able to rent it or see it on TV.