Coach Lambeau Fields makes Homer Simpson look like a Nobel Prize finalist in physics. As coach for the Boston Red Sox back in ’86, he caused his first baseman to miss a routine grounder in the World Series by asking him for an answer to a crossword puzzle. As a NASCAR crew chief, he masterminded a massive pileup by throwing a banana peel on the track.
This coach is no Fields of dreams, that’s for sure.
When he learns that a high school in Plainfolk, Texas, needs a football coach, Fields figures he has one more shot at the title, one last-gasp pass, one more chance to swing for the fence. But in order to make his sports-cliché fantasies come true, he must mold a motley bunch of high schoolers into a cohesive team … and tell his wife he loves her … and keep his rebellious daughter in line … and perhaps, if everything goes just right, even learn how to tie his own shoes.
I got a great parking spot before the screening of this sports movie spoof. Beyond that, I don’t have much to talk about in this section: Positives tend to get intercepted quickly in The Comebacks.
Coach Fields does achieve some of his goals by the end of the film (I made that thing up about the shoe-tying), and he reunites with his estranged wife.
In the manner of Field of Dreams, a voice (labeled “God” in the credits) tells Fields that, “If you build it, he will come.” The “he” is Fields’ father, whom the voice thinks is dead. When Fields informs the voice that his father’s still alive, the voice begins cursing (including a use of the s-word) and blames Google Maps for the mishap.
During halftime of the championship game, Fields tells his team to close their eyes and bow their heads. When they do so, he zips his fly. “OK, you can open your eyes again,” he says.
The Comebacks is so loaded with sexual references that it would be impossible (and unseemly) to recite a complete litany. Recurring gags include star quarterback Lance Truman’s penchant for cross-dressing and possible inclinations toward bisexuality. Lance’s would-be girlfriend walks in on him while he’s wearing a tutu, and Lance wears lacy “crotchless” panties and bra under his uniform during the big game. He’s also involved in a Speedo-a-plenty disco number with four other male teammates to the tune “It’s Raining Men.”
Lance’s father, meanwhile, is also a cross-dresser/female impersonator (a very bad one) who particularly likes masquerading as Cher—wig, fishnet stockings, G-string and all. After the final game, Dad—this time dressed as Christina Aguilera—sees the lacy panties sticking out of his son’s uniform. He breaks down and embraces Lance, overjoyed that his boy is following in his footsteps.
Michelle Fields, Coach Fields’ daughter and Lance’s would-be girlfriend, is hauled into court for doing “naked jumping jacks” and is sentenced to “rejoin” the American women’s gymnastics team. Much is made of her flexibility as she’s shown doing the splits, twisting her legs around her head, and performing on the balance beam with her tongue. She and her fellow gymnasts wear revealing outfits and strike sometimes outrageous poses. One gymnast makes crude remarks about what she’d like to do sexually with Michelle—who ignores her, preferring to help Lance get over his fumbling problems by wearing a football-themed bra for him (it gets lots of screen time) and allowing him to play with her breasts.
It gets worse. Much worse. Visual and verbal references—some veiled, some not—are made to promiscuity, prostitution, polygamy, homosexuality, masturbation, bestiality and incest. Coach Fields sexually satisfies a horse (to further the Seabiscuit lineage, we’re told). He walks in on his wife, who’s in bed with someone she initially calls a Swedish exchange student. The Comebacks’ mentally challenged “mascot,” iPod (who’s included in an effort to ridicule the film Radio), twice rubs his crotch against someone’s leg, like a dog. The Duke lacrosse team crashes a party, with one member shouting, “Hey, the strippers are here!” Lance launches into an apparent description of Michelle’s vagina.
Female characters regularly run around in their underwear, bikinis and skimpy nighties. Coach Fields strips down to his underwear, after which his privates are promptly tasered by police. Randy, the team’s designated geek, pulls an athletic cup out of his pants with an elephantine addendum. One of the Comebacks’ opponents, the Trojans, bursts onto the field from a giant condom.
Loads of hits and tackles are taken to outrageous extremes: A running joke features opposing defenders gleefully jumping on top of players, coaches and fans. But it doesn’t stop there. One player gets shot in the leg during a game by an opposing defender. (No foul is called.) Fields shoots Randy several times in the chest during a Dodgeball-inspired training exercise. Still another player runs for a touchdown while on fire. Fields knocks Randy down a flight of stadium stairs. A player named Aseel Tare mangles his leg while stepping on a sunflower seed shell. (He’s shown throughout the rest of the film covered with a plethora of bandages.)
Fields smashes a bottle of whiskey over iPod’s head. Cheerleaders are tossed off the football field to land (presumably in pain) in the stands and convertible cars. A drummer throws a drumstick into another drummer’s eye, where it grotesquely sticks out like an oversized toothpick in a deli sandwich.
In addition to getting zapped by the ill-placed taser, Fields also gets a baseball embedded in his hand, is head-butted twice (once enough to make him bleed), is subjected to a crushing tackle by the team’s sole girl player and (cartoonishly) gets hit by a bus. Aseel Tare also has a run-in with a bus. During the credits, Fields is shown yanking one of his own eyeballs out of his head and throwing it to the ground.
Characters blurt out the s-word at least a half-dozen times and make generous use of other swears, including “a–,” “d–n” and “b–ch.” God’s and Jesus’ names are both abused multiple times. (Twice God’s name is paired with “d–n.”) A closing-credits’ song adds insult to injury.
None of The Comebacks’ high school kids use drugs or alcohol. But if they were listening to their elders, they’d certainly start. Fields tells his students that he wants them to act like a football team—which means that when he walks into the locker room he wants “to smell reefer.” And when he catches his star players studying during a celebratory party, he tells them that they’re supposed to be “consuming alcohol at a dangerous rate.” Fields brags that he brought illegal drugs to the party and quickly shows the kids how to party hearty by consuming mind-impairing substances.
Lance’s dad guzzles out of a beer can that’s about 18 inches tall. He brags to Fields that he stayed sober for 11 years. When Fields asked what happened then, Lance’s dad says, “I turned 12.” Fields’ wife tells him that coaching is in his blood, like “traces of cocaine.”
Many of the film’s student athletes make the dean’s list, and they study calculus and Shakespeare after major wins. This sort of behavior is vigorously discouraged, however, by their coach—so much so that, when not one of Fields’ players winds up on academic probation, he threatens to forfeit the championship game. “I want to start seeing D’s and F’s!” he hollers. Similarly, the team’s star quarterback learns how to not fumble the football and patches things up with his dad, but, well, that patch involves lace (as referenced in “Sexual Content”).
After getting sent to prison for stripping, taking drugs and bootlegging DVDs, Fields escapes during a basketball game with the warden (Dennis Rodman). He goes outside the prison gates to retrieve the ball, hops in a taxi and leaves.
The script also dabbles in racial and ethnic jokes, attitudes and stereotypes.
The Comebacks is an ambitious film, if only in that it attempts to skewer, shred and spit in the eye of every sports movie ever made. From Rocky to Rudy to Remember the Titans, it tries to get ’em all. If only its creators had thought to hire a referee before slam-dunking their crass creation into millions of moviegoers’ minds.
That ref would’ve flagged The Comebacks for unsportsmanlike conduct, roughing the audience and encroachment of any reasonable standard. He would’ve ejected everyone involved for extreme breeches of decency, good taste and humor. He’d have asked the film commissioner (if there was such a thing) to dole out hefty fines and decade-long suspensions. And he’d have called the very real Motion Picture Association of America and asked them just what in the wide world of sports movies they were thinking when they handed a measly PG-13 rating to this irredeemable piece of celluloid-wrapped pigskin.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.