80 for Brady, 2023.
Directed by Kyle Marvin.
Starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno, Sally Field, Tom Brady, Glynn Turman, Bob Balaban, Ron Funches, Jimmy O. Yang, Sara Gilbert, Alex Bentley, Harry Hamlin, Guy Fieri, Billy Porter, Rob Gronkowski, Pason, and Patton Oswalt.
Four best friends living life to the fullest take a wild trip to the 2017 Super Bowl LI to see their hero Tom Brady play.
80 for Brady is the latest film in the elderly adventure subgenre, which continues to be littered with disposable results that would rather play up the material for cheap laughs and saccharine drama while pretending to be forward-thinking regarding our perception of old people rather than take the story seriously and find something beautifully moving in the characters and their shenanigans.
There is no reason a group of older women can’t get together every Sunday during NFL season to cheer on their favorite team and players (in this case, it’s Tom Brady back in his New England Patriots days during the build-up to Super Bowl LI where they took on the Atlanta Falcons) the same way rowdy men have done since the dawn of the sport. It did happen; the film is based on a true story (although highly exaggerated.) Similarly, it’s fine if they want to thirst over some of the players while enjoying the spectacle and brutality of the sport, the same way men might fawn over cheerleaders. The core plot of 80 for Brady comes from an intriguing place that could tackle ageism, gendered expectations, and sexuality in fresh ways, but that’s too challenging for director Kyle Marvin and screenwriters Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins, who choose broad comedy, tired situational humor, and cliché writing.
Anchored by four magnetic acting veterans (Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, and Rita Moreno), there is someone in chemistry here. However, everything about the plot is underbaked and streamlined, neutering any chance at investing in these characters pulling off their dream of traveling to the Super Bowl to see the New England Patriots win the championship.
There’s a basic trait to each of them; supporting Lou (Lily Tomlin) through chemotherapy brought them together and inadvertently turned them into football fans during Tom Brady’s rookie season. As such, she takes their dynamic the most serious of the bunch. Trish (Jane Fonda) is the flirt who writes erotica about Tight End Rob Gronkowski, whereas Sally Field’s mathematics expert Betty becomes most interested in statistics. Meanwhile, Rita Moreno’s Maura is in the process of moving on from her deceased husband.
Flash forward to 2017 when the women now have matching jerseys to correspond to their Patriots fever that would rival some of the staunchest supporters out there (again, there is something to appreciate in the truthful concept that elderly women can also be passionate fans, pushing against cruel gatekeeping that exist across many entertainment mediums.) Doctors are frantically trying to contact her Lou about recent medical results, but she chooses not to open them and focus on winning a contest for an all-expenses-paid trip to Houston for the Super Bowl. Unsurprisingly, she succeeds, all while keeping quiet about potentially bad news to live out a dream with her best friends before it’s too late.
From there, 80 for Brady launches into retirement home breakouts, NFL Experience antics (such as a spicy wings eating contest hosted by Guy Fieri), ritzy parties where the women accidentally get high (because, for whatever reason, writers can’t help themselves from that boring, regressive trope that hasn’t been funny in over a decade), bizarre Eyes Wide Shut references, and more wacky scenarios designed to populate the screen with celebrity cameos. Even when the film tries to explore sexual desire, it falls flat on its face taking the laziest route to do so.
The four women each have their own subplot, but it’s all too much for one movie. Trish has problems with her dating life, Betty has a hopelessly dependent husband that needs her advice on everything and can’t even remember to put his pants on before starting the day, and Maura is opening up to loving again. These are thinly sketched without a satisfying payoff, let alone one that feels earned.
Strangely enough, 80 for Brady works best when it stops acting as if it cares about its emotional backbone and real-world logic. Despite having tickets, there are many hurdles to getting in the stadium and opportunities to intervene and get the Patriots back on track after a horrendous first half. When the filmmakers are getting odd, letting Tom Brady bobbleheads offer words of inspiration or allowing the women to barge into the playcalling office to fire Tom Brady up with a rousing speech about chemotherapy and never giving up, it’s a ludicrous exercise that is somehow a real movie (seeing is believing.) Tom Brady also gets a speech himself that is weirdly touching, coming from a personal place of his undying love for the sport.
The rest is filled with bad play calls thatdon’t offer insight into who these characters are or make us care. It’s more concerned with derivative kooky elderly humor rather than highlighting this friendship and their adventure in cleverly amusing and meaningful ways. Someday, a movie like this in the subgenre of chaotic elderly journeys will exist, but 80 for Brady is not it. The filmmakers fumble this one from the beginning, and the third-act recovery is not enough to salvage it.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com