Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Howard Deutch|
|Produced by||Dylan Sellers|
|Written by||Vince McKewin|
|Music by||John Debney|
|Edited by||Seth Flaum|
Bud S. Smith
Bel Air Entertainment
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$50.1 million|
The Replacements is a 2000 American sports comedy film directed by Howard Deutch. It stars Keanu Reeves, Gene Hackman, Brooke Langton, Jon Favreau and Jack Warden in what would be his last film appearance.
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A fictional pro football league is hit with a players' strike with four games left in the season. Washington Sentinels owner Edward O'Neil calls a former coach of his, Jimmy McGinty, asking McGinty to coach the Sentinels' replacement players for the rest of the season, adding that winning three of the last four games will get the Sentinels into the playoffs. McGinty accepts, on the condition that he can sign the players he wants without O'Neil's interference.
McGinty pulls together players of varying talents who he believes can make a winning team. As his quarterback, McGinty chooses Shane Falco, a former All-American from Ohio State whose career went to pieces after a horrendous Sugar Bowl game; he now lives on a houseboat in a D.C. marina and makes a living doing hull maintenance on private yachts. Falco initially refuses, but McGinty persuades him, believing that Falco can still become the player he was meant to be. The replacement players are greeted at their first practice with hostility from the striking players, who call them "scabs" and throw eggs at them; and Falco, who arrives late, gets his truck turned over. Head cheerleader Annabelle Ferrell, who has to find new cheerleaders since the originals apparently walked out in sympathy with the players, hires strippers when the other tryouts go terribly bad. After practice, Annabelle drives Falco home and surprises him with her vast football knowledge.
The replacements' first game is against Detroit, and the team initially struggles to get along with each other. Falco tries to rally them, but on the last play, he panics when he sees a pending blitz and calls an audible, which falls short of the winning touchdown. McGinty berates Falco for what he did, telling him that "winners always want the ball when the game's on the line." At a local bar, the replacements are brooding over their loss when some of the striking players, led by their prima donna quarterback Eddie Martel, arrive and taunt them. When Falco stands up to Martel, a brawl follows, and the replacements are arrested, but while in jail they build a bond, dancing together to the Gloria Gaynor song "I Will Survive" in their cell before McGinty bails them out. Annabelle meets Shane the next day and tells him that he's the first quarterback she's seen in a long time who cares more for his teammates than himself, and a connection starts to grow between them.
The next day, in a "chalk talk", when McGinty asks the players what their fears are, they begin to realize they're all afraid of failing in their second chance at football. McGinty inspires the team to use their shared fear as a source of strength. In the Sentinels' next game against San Diego, they fall behind again but are able to come together and win on a 65-yard field goal by their Welsh kicker, Nigel. Falco meets Annabelle at the bar which she inherited from her father and now runs. After a short conversation and a beer, they share a deep kiss.
The Sentinels nearly lose their next game on the road against Phoenix, but win on a couple of improbable plays. When they return to D.C., O'Neil tells McGinty that Martel has crossed the picket line, and that the entire Dallas team -- the league's defending champions and the Sentinels' next opponent -- have crossed as well. O'Neil shows no confidence in Falco being able to beat Dallas, and hints to McGinty that he could be fired if he refuses to start Martel. McGinty gives in and tells Falco, saying that he has the "heart" that Martel lacks; Falco then must give his teammates the news. Too downcast to face Annabelle, he stands her up for the date they had planned.
In the first half of the final crucial game, Martel clashes severely with the replacement players, blaming them for his own mistakes, and smugly ignores any play calls McGinty makes, causing the Sentinels to trail Dallas 17-0. On the way to the locker room for halftime, McGinty tells a TV reporter that what the team needs to come back and win is "miles and miles of heart". Falco, watching this on television, returns to the stadium, and McGinty promptly benches Martel for Falco. The rest of the team throws Martel out of the locker room. Back on the field, Falco finds Annabelle and apologizes to her, giving her another deep kiss.
McGinty tells the replacements that the strike will officially end the next day, encouraging them to give everything they have left. The Sentinels rally back to a 17-14 score, with less than a minute left in the game. Falco calls for a deep pass to the replacements' deaf tight end, Brian Murphy, and hits him with the game-winning touchdown pass as time expires, earning the Sentinels a playoff berth. McGinty narrates that the replacement players left the field with nothing but the satisfaction and personal glory of living the athlete's dream of a "second chance," as the replacements dance on the field as they did earlier in the movie.
The movie was loosely based on the 1987 NFL strike, specifically the Washington Redskins, who won all three replacement games without any of their regular players and went on to win Super Bowl XXII at the end of the season. Though the film is a story of the replacement players, the Falco-Martel QB controversy is quite similar to the one experienced by the post-strike Redskins controversy between Doug Williams and Jay Schroeder. Hackman would later serve as the narrator for the episode of the NFL Network's America's Game: The Super Bowl Champions devoted to that team.
The multiple-fumble touchdown for the Sentinels against the Phoenix team was based on the real-life Holy Roller between the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers in 1978. John Madden, who, along with Pat Summerall, played himself throughout the movie and was "calling" the Sentinels's touchdown in detail, was the head coach of the Raiders at the time of the Holy Roller play. The National Football League changed the rules for the 1979 NFL season, only allowing the fumbling player to advance the ball on fourth down or on any play after the two-minute warning in either half. However, since Shane Falco was the one who fumbled the ball at the start of the play and is the only one who advances it, the play would have been legal in real life.
There are multiple other instances in the film where typical football rules and strategy are inaccurate. For example, in one scene, Falco is seen on the Sentinels kickoff team; outside of rare exceptions, first-string quarterbacks are not used on special teams. In the same scene, the announcers indicate that after recovering the onside kick, the Sentinels needed to call a timeout. After a kickoff, the clock stops, a rule that is used in all levels of football.
The film opened at the third position at the North American box office making $11,039,214 USD in its opening weekend, behind Space Cowboys and Hollow Man which was on its second consecutive week at the top spot. It eventually grossed $44.7 million domestically and $5.3 million internationally to over $50 million worldwide.
On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 41% based on 108 reviews, with an average rating of 4.96/10. The website's critical consensus states: "The clichéd characters and obvious outcome make all the fun and excitement amount to nothing." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 30 out of 100 based on 32 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
Yet despite this low score from Metacritic critics, Metacritic users scored the film an 8.6 out of 10, indicating "universal acclaim". Furthermore, audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale, and 91% of Google reviewers liked the film, strongly suggesting that everyday viewers found the film far more appealing than did film critics, despite the film's formulaic plot and various other flaws.