by Rupert and Stan, the Ghosts of Wayne Fontes
Having read a couple of previews of George Clooney’s upcoming football feature, Leatherheads, the signs look positive for a pretty decent sports movie release in the not-too-distant future. Clooney co-wrote, directed, and stars in the upcoming moving picture aliongside the Office’s, John Krasinski. While I was a little skeptical of Clooney as a believable football coach, I was a lot skeptical of Krasinski as a player… at first. Do not be mistaken, I love Krasinki as Jim in the Office, but he strikes me as a big metrosexual, rather than a hardnosed ball player. Then it dawned on me. They always put dweeby guys in lead roles for football movies. We decided to take a little look back in time at the long list of total weenies that we have watched - and oddly, believed could - perform on-the-field heroics. Somewhere in Hollywood, there are some fat cats laughing, because they are playing a game of “can you top this one?” Let’s take a look at some examples.
Tom Cruise as Stefen Djordjevic in “All the Right Moves”
It’s extremely challenging to take Cruise seriously in football pads, but sometimes you’ve gotta just roll with it. It grows to collosal levels of comedy when you see the 5’1” Cruise all geared up and ready to play football. Dude was a brash bad ass mofro in this movie, which made me laugh even harder. The pads are half the size of his whole body. Isn’t that the same dude who was dancing to Seager in his undies? This high end drama saw Stefen’s (Cruise) dreams of football glory shattered, as he was framed and kicked off the football team. His ticket to escape the confines of his small town expired. As far fetched as the role seemed, Cruise didn’t let us down. And of note, we got to see Emma Thompson’s tits…oh, Mrs. McFly.
This has very minimal relevance, but this seemed a good time for the quote from Stripes. “I like fast cars and I like fast women, that’s why the guys in my car club call me the Cruiser.”
Robin Williams as Jack Dundee in “Best of Times”
On my short list of “cheesy feel good” movies of which I can’t deny being a sucker, it’s the ideal “underdog wins” plot, but with a twist. Dundee (Williams) lures his high school buddy and quarterback hero Reno Hightower (Kurt Russell) into playing a re-match of high school football they lost 13 years ago. Dundee pulls out ever trick in the book to get Reno hooked into the concept of the re-match. In the most ridiculous of endings, Dundee after getting rocked the entire game breaks free for a miracle bobble and catch 80 something yard TD for the win. This film took place full on during the Williams-on-coke era and seeing Mork in football pads and coffee house glasses…um, it’s a treat.
James Van Der Beek as Mox in “Varsity Blues”
This is embarrassing. There is no way that Dawson should pull one over on us as a legitimate quarterback, but let’s face it, this movie rules. Mox gets the call to start for the varsity team, when the BMOC, goes down with an injury. Complete with his Dawsonesque emotional meltdowns, Mox isn’t sure he can handle the pressure of the big time… not to mention Ali Larter lubed up with the famous Cool Whip bikini. Well, Van Der Beek may have infuriated audiences by running out on Ali Larter, but he delivered in his role as this is one of the better modern football movies out there. Besides, I guess you can’t really blame him for hitting the abort button on Larter when he already had Amy Smart by his side.
Brendan Fraser as David Greene in “School Ties”
Ah, the old Jew at a prep school makes friends, stars on the football team, hides religion, gets caught, gets exiled, and overcomes adversity plot. It’s one of my favorites. Brendan Fraser is another giant weenie in a football role. He looks big enough and physical enough, but how many times have we seen him do that awful puppy dog emotional role (think the scared little overachiever who lost his precious thesis paper in With Honors). Why didn’t you make a copy or save your work you dumbass? Plus, this is the guy from Bedazzled and George of the Jungle. You can’t just shake roles like that out of your memory and convince yourself this guy belongs on a football field. It’s engrained in your brain forever.
Keanu Reeves as Shane Falco in the "Replacements" and/or Johnny Utah in "Point Break"
Hold still, you’ll just feel a little prick. This won’t hurt a bit. “Pain heals, Chicks dig scars. Glory… lasts for ever.”
Owwwwwwwww, god damns it. You said that wasn’t going to hurt, you bastard.
Somewhere a casting director loves the idea of Keanu Reeves as a washed up ex-college football star. Maybe it was that inspired role in Parenthood where he drives the funny car into a wall. I can’t really say for sure, but something just says, “Keanu Reeves - burnt out quarterback extraordinaire.” Nevertheless, Reeves is a lock for a terrible performance that is bizarrely entertaining. The best part about Keanu’s weenie factor is that he looks so amazingly weird in pads. Of this whole list, this is the one role that is actually entirely unbelievable.
Cuba Gooding Jr. as Rod Tidwell in "Jerry McGuire"
I guess at the time, this was a decent choice, since we had no idea what Cuba had in store for us. Fast forward ten years and the guy did Boat Trip. I think it goes without saying his career as a tough guy was short lived. Besides Boat Trip, he has delivered us Snow Dogs, the Fighting Temptations, and Norbit. Go ahead and fly that freak flag, Cuba. And let's not forget about his role in "Radio"... OK, we are going to hell.
Scott Bakula as Paul Blake in “Necessary Roughness”
Talk about a 2 foot putt being a gimme…and that’s what it’s like saying this is the biggest “dweeb” cast as a lead in a football film, ever. Hands down this is a lock. We are supposed to believe that Mr. Quantum Leap himself can lead a team of outcasts back to relevance at age 34? Amazing story. Thank the lord that Kathy Ireland showed up to save the day.
Craig Sheffer as Joe Kane in “The Program”
This dude kind of fell off the map after starring as the confused borderline alcoholic Joe Kane in “The Program.” And to be fair, he probably wasn’t the most awkward looking guy to don football pads and a helmet. Still though, we are tallying the dweeb count and he notches a vote. Plus, this gives us a chance to praise Lattimer, we love that guy.
Anthony Michael Hall as Johnny Walker in "Johnny Be Good"
Fresh off his role as the original "neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie" in the Breakfast Club, Anthony Michael Hall turned a complete 180 degree reversal into the BMOC in Johnny Be Good. Anthony Michael Hall actually plays this role perfectly and makes us all wish we were getting recruited t play college ball. Plus, never before have movie adienced been awed by the hang time of punt. I always felt punt hang time was the real measure of a man, A true 80's icon, AMH is the king of the brat pack and this is one of his finest roles to of them all. Johnny Be Good flies under the radar as a classic sports movie, but give it a second look. It is as fun and as funny today as it was in 1988. Hats off to the king of the 80s. Nothing but love for you brotha.
Honorable mentions: Omar Epps as Darnell Jefferson “The Program” and Corey Haim as Lucas in, well "Lucas"
by Rupert and Stan, the Ghosts of Wayne Fontes