Tom Brady may have seven Super Bowl rings, but that’s nothing compared to the latest team against whom he’s facing off, the winningest group of legends perhaps ever assembled. Just take a look at the stats: first up, Jane Fonda, with two Oscars, seven Golden Globes and two Tony Awards under her belt. Next, Lily Tomlin, boasting six Emmys, two Tonys and a Grammy, and Sally Field, coming in hot with two Oscars, two Emmys and two Globes. Rounding out the team is the EGOT herself, Rita Moreno. Count ’em: Oscar, Grammy, Tony, two Emmys and a Golden Globe for good luck. This fearsome foursome star in “80 for Brady,” a tale about a group of octogenarian football fans and a wild weekend at the Super Bowl.
Based on the trailers and ads for “80 for Brady,” featuring these iconic actresses in bedazzled New England Patriots jerseys and an eye-searingly offensive blonde wig on Fonda, the outlook seemed dire for this sassy football comedy. It’s a relief to report that “80 for Brady” has a case of “bad trailer,” and that the resulting film is funnier and more charming than expected.
Writing duo Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins (“Booksmart,” “Trophy Wife”) penned the script, while actor and producer Kyle Marvin (“The Climb,” “WeCrashed”) makes his feature directorial debut on the project. Based on a unique group of real Tom Brady superfans, “80 for Brady” lands at the juncture of “Book Club” and “Fever Pitch.”
Tomlin’s character Lou is the heart of the movie, the biggest superfan of them all, enforcing their superstitions and encouraging the group to enter a contest for free tickets. Around her flit Trish (Fonda), a former “Mayflower Girl” who falls in love easily and often, the recently widowed and grieving Maura (Moreno), and Betty (Field), a sharp MIT math professor who likes to remind them all she’s in her 70s, not her 80s. When the gals get a lucky break with the tickets, they make their way to Houston to catch the 2017 Super Bowl in person.
The cinematography by Oscar-winner John Toll is serviceable at best, and visually, it’s not much to remark upon, aside from Fonda’s rotating wig wardrobe, which is explained, though doesn’t make them any less ostentatious to look at. Her look is fit for Dolly Parton, who collaborated on a song for the film, making this a proper “9 to 5” reunion.
The comedy isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, and the story beats are almost painfully predictable, but the picture hangs together thanks to this group of legends, and the loose, absurdist humor of the screenplay. Marvin has wisely stacked the supporting cast with comedians and celebs to keep things fresh and funny for this quartet to bounce off, and Alex Moffat and Rob Corddry keep up a steady patter of Boston-accented banter throughout, as a pair of Patriots commentators who keep us nonfootball folk following the action.
Naturally, there are several cameos from former Patriots themselves, including Brady, who makes his way, just not all that impressively, through a third-act speech. He’s at least game for the high jinks at hand, and as a producer on the film, it’s the kind of project that falls in line with LeBron James’ forays into Hollywood, producing and playing himself in projects like the “Space Jam” and “House Party” remakes. Of course, the Tom Brady of 2022 is decidedly not the Tom Brady of 2017, and so, for football fans, it may be a stretch to take in the film without reflecting their present-day view onto him.
But the true MVP of the picture is Sally Field, who feels the most naturally at ease, and gets the most hilarious moments. Tomlin is saddled with the pathos, Fonda the romantic drama, while Field’s Betty, free of her needy, nutty professor husband (Bob Balaban) enters a hot wing-eating contest, gets high on edibles and tries out flirting for the first time. It’s her liberating journey that manages to do the impossible for “80 for Brady” — to come back from behind (a cringeworthy trailer) and manage to score a touchdown.