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Watch This Review

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Movie Review

It's the bicentennial summer of 1976, but there's little to celebrate for many Philadelphians. Union strikes have left scores of workers without paychecks. District-wide cutbacks in several industries have forced others out of their jobs entirely. And adding insult to injury, fans of the city's beloved football team, the Eagles, are enduring an unprecedented 11-year losing streak.

Chief among those dejected fans is part-time teacher, part-time bartender Vince Papale. After his wife walks out on him and he's let go from his teaching job, the South Philly native doesn't see how things can get much worse. So when his friends hear about the Eagles holding open tryouts, they urge this rec-league standout to give it a shot. It's a Hail Mary for sure: Vince never played college ball and is 30 years old. But his exceptional speed, good hands and unmatched heart turn a few heads at the trials—including new coach Dick Vermeil's. Vince is the only one invited to attend training camp.

Once there, he faces a daily uphill battle. Besides the relentless physical beating he takes, a horde of naysayers waits for him to fail. Even his own teammates go out of their way to prove the rookie a fluke—particularly the cocky veterans he's challenging for spots on the roster. Yet with an entire city full of blue-collarites rooting him on, the unassuming Vince is determined to make something of himself for once.

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Positive Elements

Invincible fits perfectly in the long lineup of Disney's inspirational stories that are just as much about lessons of the heart as sheer entertainment. Among other things, Vince's perseverance, humility and loyalty to his roots are indeed stirring. No matter how many times he's knocked down—both on the field and off—the underdog musters the strength to get back on his feet.

A large part of his success is due to strong support from several of those around him. When Vince doesn't have rent money, bar owner Max helps him out. His father, Frank, does likewise, adding that, "We've had some rough times, but we stick [together] on this, you and me." And best friend Tommy provides a steady spark of encouragement and support, even while he faces his own hardships.

In similar fashion, young coach Vermeil is undergirded by a supportive wife. She not only seems to understand the demands and stress of his job (Vermeil's shakeup of the team isn't exactly greeted with open arms), she is also confident in their relationship. When he's faced with a tough decision, she quotes his own words back to him, reminding him that "character is tested when you're up against it." The principled coach delivers equally upstanding messages to his players, urging them to conquer with fearlessness and telling them that they inspire hope in millions.

Max tells Vince he's proud of him, and Frank expresses the same sentiment in no uncertain terms. Vince proves to his friends that, despite the hype surrounding his journey, he's still there for them.

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Though Vince's relationship with a fellow bartender named Janet remains innocent throughout most of the movie, the pair ends up kissing passionately one night, which leads to an implied sexual encounter behind closed doors. When the attractive newcomer is introduced to a bar filled with men, one regular makes an ogling comment about her.

Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders are shown in their standard tight-fitting shorts. (It should be noted, however, that the camera never once focuses on their notoriously skimpy tops.) Several guys appear shirtless in the locker room. At least one is wearing only a towel.

Violent Content

Lots of big, hard, bone-crunching gridiron hits. While this standard football action isn't played up as much as in such sports flicks as Any Given Sunday or The Longest Yard, the impressive on-the-field camerawork certainly showcases just how rough America's favorite game can get. Vince in particular bears the brunt of several wince-inducing takedowns. (Actor Mark Walberg refused to use a stunt double.)

That's with helmets and pads. Without the protective gear, Vince and his pals play parking lot pickup games where almost anything goes. In those, we see a few clotheslines and rough tackles, and Vince buffaloes one runner into a parked car. A couple of hard hits incite scuffles. Likewise, Vince fights with a jawing teammate after he makes a comment about his ex-wife's Dear John letter.

Upon discovering his wife has left him, Vince goes into a fit of rage, smashing a telephone into glass and tossing chairs. Several holes in the walls of his apartment later show the damage he's done.

Crude or Profane Language

One "d--n" and four instances of "h---" are mixed with a couple of questionable terms ("screw," "freakin'"). God's name is exclaimed or mouthed a few times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

À la Cheers, most of the camaraderie among bartender Vince and his friends is based on their hanging out at Max's bar, where the brew flows freely. Beer, wine and a few other drinks (such as gin and tonic) are either downed or mentioned throughout this movie. Tommy makes a joke about being honest when "[I have] eight beers in me," and another pal is said to be drunk. Several tryout hopefuls wait in line with drinks in brown paper bags. A barroom sign reads, "Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder." Max offers a toast to honor both Vince and the Eagles.

Other Negative Elements

A man outside Max's bar faces the wall and (it's implied) begins to relieve himself. Players and coaches are heard vomiting before the season opener.

Conclusion

Everybody loves an underdog. And for football fans during the mid- to late-'70s, it was hard not to root for the quintessential little guy, Vince Papale. He never went on to lay claim to the Top-10 of any statistical category. He wasn't even close. And yet this hard-hitting fan-turned-player left such a mark by simply "making it" that it was just a matter of time before a movie about him was made.

Thirty years later comes Invincible to remind those who lived through Papale's amazing journey and inspire those who've never heard of this remarkable man. Have similar tales been told on the big screen? Certainly, with recent titles Cinderella Man, Miracle and Glory Road all coming to mind. But don't let the familiar turf taint the positive messages in this gridiron go-round. Making that easier is the fact that, as with Remember the Titans, Disney is once again to be commended for its relative restraint in preserving a classic feel-good story.

"These are the same people who made The Rookie and Miracle," Papale told Plugged In after serving as a consultant throughout the film's production. "They changed a few things from the original screenplay that weren't really objectionable but might've raised an eyebrow."

Barroom settings and a handful of content blips—including a kiss that apparently leads to more—draw a couple of flags, but it's obvious those behind the camera made a concerted effort to make this a movie fit for (most of) the whole family.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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