Tomlin, Fond, Field, and Moreno a Dynamite All-Star Team in 80 for Brady
80 for Brady proved to me two things, one of which I knew going in, while the other I can’t say I found surprising. The first item is that Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, and Rita Moreno are all so titanically talented that they can take pretty much any material, no matter how innocuous, forgettable, or silly, and make it feel Oscar-worthy with their mere presence alone. The second is that, whatever the recently re-retired Tom Brady decides to do with his life after the NFL, please for the love of all that’s good and holy, let him not choose to become a professional actor.
The former is the one that matters. The latter is strictly an observation based on admittedly limited screen time. Either way, the only reason 80 for Brady (inspired by a true story) has value — and why it will likely be a moderate box office hit — has everything to do with its above-the-title superstar quartet. Tomlin, Fonda, Field, and Moreno make this harmless trifle sing, and watching them work their collective magic for 98 fast-paced minutes was an unexpected joy from the first second to the last.
Best friends Lou (Tomlin), Trish (Fonda), Betty (Field), and Maura (Moreno) are big Tom Brady fans. They discovered their joint passion for football and the New England Patriots’ star quarterback the moment he entered a game to sub for an injured Drew Bledsoe and ended up leading the team to a Super Bowl. This fandom gave Lou the strength to successfully beat back cancer, making these Sunday get-togethers something each woman treasures.
Now it is 2017, and the Patriots are on their way to another Super Bowl. They will face the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, and Lou thinks the four of them should attend. They all agree to enter a local radio contest to win tickets, never thinking they’d come out triumphant. But when Lou surprises Trish, Betty, and Mauro with the spoils of victory, off to Houston they go, each lady excited to see their favorite player perform his magic on the grandest of NFL stages.
Various bits of chaos and hilarity spring forth from there, but it isn’t as if Booksmart writers Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins’ screenplay goes anyplace novel. The three octogenarians and one septuagenarian have a series of wild and crazy escapades, mingling with celebrities, attending wild pre-Super Bowl parties, and even finding themselves face to face with some of the Patriots’ star players. The bonds of their friendship will be strengthened, secrets will come out into the open, and new traditions will be born. That’s it. There’s not much more to it.
Tomlin and Fonda could do this sort of film in their sleep and still make it look like Shakespeare. The former gets the majority of the dramatic heavy lifting, as questions regarding Lou’s health form an underlying subplot that the script periodically spends a few moments dealing with. Fonda gets to vamp it up as a former beauty queen and television commercial celebrity, and it’s clear she’s having a blast. Her flirtations with a former two-time Super Bowl champion (seductively underplayed by an engaging Harry Hamlin) are far more comically engaging than they have any right to be.
But the duo cedes center stage to Field and Moreno, and boy do the pair make the most of it. Field rips the screen to shreds, and whether she’s chomping down buffalo wings with Guy Fieri or dealing with the repercussions of a champagne hangover, everything the actor does is incredible.
As for Moreno, the 91-year-old superstar consistently shows why she’s the only EGOT up on the screen. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She makes the comedy look easy and the drama real, and can even still show everyone a thing or two when it comes to dance. Moreno is fantastic, and even though it’s only February, I guarantee I’m going to be thinking fondly about her performance for all of 2023.
The outcome is never in doubt, mainlay because what happened during the 2017 Super Bowl is a matter of historical record. It’s also not like Halpern and Haskins are going to suddenly take their sunny tale of female friendship down a dark path or like director Kyle Marvin (The Climb) is going to allow this slice of sitcom hokum to slip into hackneyed melodrama.
80 for Brady marches down the field, throwing passes composed of happiness, running between the tackles with a ball made out of amity. Even if the film doesn’t score a touchdown, it still kicks a game-winning field goal, and as far as the entertainment scoreboard is concerned, that’s what matters.
– Review reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle
Film Rating: 3 (out of 4)