Invincible, the story of Vince Papale, opened this weekend. There was no chance I wasn’t going to see it. As the former owner of Section 614, Row 11, Seats 19 and 20 at The Vet, how could I not see a movie about a former Philadelphia Eagles player.
And, of course, there was Helaine. It was pretty much decided she’d see this movie when it went into pre-production. She too is an Eagles fan, plus at one time she knew Papale¹.
Surprisingly, a lot of other people felt the same way. We went to the 3:00 PM show at Showcase Cinema in North Haven and found the theater nearly half full. That’s pretty good for a summer’s day – even one with mainly cloudy skies.
Are there that many Eagles fans? We watched a few groups of girls come in. Probably Mark Wahlberg fans.
Invincible is the story of Vince Papale, a 30 years old South Philly bartender with no college football experience who walks into a Philadelphia Eagles open tryout and makes the team. Imagine Rocky as non-fiction.
Though the movie claims to star Mark Wahlberg, it really stars Philadelphia. The city is portrayed as gritty and downtrodden. Papale’s South Philadelphia neighborhood is cramped with narrow streets and smaller homes. The Eagles are the one salvation to men who see no salvation or future in their own lives.
Wahlberg did a nice job, though I suspect the real Vince Papale was a lot more ebullient. The Papale seen on the screen was a self doubting moper.
Coach Dick Vermeil, played by Greg Kinnear, also seemed to lack the incredible enthusiasm… maybe naive enthusiasm… I saw in him as a Philadelphia resident.
It’s seldom you see a movie with a nearly wall-to-wall soundtrack of mid-70s music. This one did, and I loved each and every one.
Some of what’s portrayed, specifically Papale’s failure during his first pro game and his amazing turnaround in game two (calling a special teams audible which enabled him to make a tackle, creating a fumble, which he carried to the end zone, setting up an Eagles win against the Giants) seemed too contrived to be real. I checked, but the detailed game-by-game stats you find today just aren’t available online.
Papale is credited with one takeaway fumble in ’76 – so maybe.
It was nice to see names on uniforms and know they were really there. Harold Carmichael and Bill Bergey – these guys were big deals in Philadelphia. My bet is, back in 1976, backup quarterback Mike Boryla never thought his jersey would be featured in a movie, but it’s there too.
There was little suspense. You know he makes the team and how the movie will end.
What was there was lots of passion. That’s what made it worthwhile in the theater and what made it acceptable to be a fan in that 4-10 season.
¹ – I was thinking Jessica Alba or possible Hillary Swank as Helaine, but somehow she must have been written out. Damn Hollywood!