Every year, or more accurately, several times a year, we’ll receive a new comedy targeted at an older audience and stars some of the Hollywood superstars from years ago. The majority of the comedic value of these films derives from their protagonists engaging in activities that most people their age would not do. Typical cast members include Morgan Freeman, Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, or both; most of the humour is derived from the fact that the protagonists age gracefully. Book Club, Poms, Last Vegas, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 5 Flights Up, and many more are among the films released in recent years.
Some of these movies have even been given the green light for sequels, and while it’s easy to make fun of them, they do have an audience, and most of the time, they’re not even that horrible. Some of them are quite fantastic, and even the ones that aren’t are charming at the very least.
In the most recent entry in this subgenre, 80 for Brady, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda (yet again), Rita Moreno, and Sally Field play four close friends who are devoted followers of Tom Brady and travel to Houston, Texas, to watch the New England Patriots play the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Not only that, but it also stars Brady himself, Guy Fieri, Billy Porter, Rob Gronkowski, and a host of other athletes and celebrities.
If the idea that an Academy Award–winning actress like Sally Field would be appearing in a comedy with the King of Flavortown, produced by an NFL Quarterback, seems absurd, then you should probably watch the film at least once before forming an opinion about it.
80 for Brady follows Lou, Trish, Maura, and Betty (Tomlin, Fonda, Moreno, and Field), all of whom have an unwavering devotion to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Maura has found it easier to cope with the loss of her husband, while Betty has found a release from her loving but work-obsessed husband due to watching Brady play.
Trish has found great success writing erotica surrounding the Patriots (Bob Balaban). Following their participation in sweepstakes, four of their mutual friends won the opportunity to fly to Houston, Texas, to attend the now-famous game that featured the greatest comeback in the annals of Super Bowl history.
The film 80 for Brady may sound ridiculous, but there is surprisingly a lot to like in it beyond the simple novelty of the fact that such a movie even exists. The plot is practically nonexistent, and except for a subplot focusing on Lou and her daughter (Sara Gilbert), the stakes never feel as high as they might give the nature of the situation.
Each of the four leading females is given the opportunity to garner some significant laughs, and the connection between them is simply irresistible. From Jane Fonda reading aloud Rob Gronkowski fan fiction to a captivated audience of Patriots fans, to Rita Moreno, high as a kite, stumbling into a celebrity poker game and hallucinating Guy Fieri’s face everywhere, or Sally Field unintentionally flirting with a man much younger than her, the humour is simple and not the most original.
Still, it’s the delivery from the actresses that makes it work. From Jane Fonda’s reading, it is difficult to keep from giggling and smiling along with the other four women since they are all so enthusiastically engaged in their parts and appear to be having the time of their lives.
80 for Brady spends a good amount of time having its main characters talk about how handsome they find Brady. This is similar to the recent reboot of House Party, which constantly made comments about how great its producer LeBron James is. In both of these cases, the comments were made throughout the film.
In contrast to House Party, which comes off as a gigantic vanity project and encourages its audience to laugh along with it rather than at it, 80 for Brady makes the audience feel like they are much more a part of the joke. It never takes itself too seriously, even though it frequently gives the impression of being a single, sprawling advertisement for the NFL and Tom Brady.
Even though Brady’s name is all over the movie, many of the funniest gags have nothing to do with him. This is although Brady is a major character in the story. There are many cameos, but none are significant enough to overwhelm the four stars. Instead, this allows the leads to continue to shine in the spotlight and be the free-wheeling characters they so infrequently get to be on film.
Outside of Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern’s story, nothing else about 80 for Brady genuinely stands out in terms of filmmaking or technical aspects. This kind of comedy thrives when there is a live audience, and it’s highly unlikely that it would be nearly as funny if you watched it on television at home or in an empty theatre. It has the atmosphere of a comedy or streaming service, and the filmmakers appear to be more concerned with allowing the award-winning actresses who are the film’s stars to carry the picture on their shoulders.
Haskins and Halpern’s script is a fantastic match for the sensibilities of Tomlin, Fonda, Moreno, and Field. Despite the film’s corniness, the gags land, and it boldly displays its enormous amount of heart. In addition to the hijinks, the movie has a powerful emotional core. Although it won’t have you walk out of the theatre in tears, the movie has genuine tenderness.
80 for Brady is never once mean-spirited, and although you probably already know how the film will play out beat-for-beat, it nevertheless feels like a warm embrace the entire time you see it. It is the kind of comedy that is ideal for seeing with your mother or going to with your pals after getting a few $5 Margaritas at Applebee’s because it will not test you, leave you feeling emotionally exhausted, or cause you to walk out of the theatre feeling like a different person.
The sports comedy 80 for Brady does not live up to the new benchmark for excellence in the genre, but it was never intended to do so. It has all of the qualities that a good feel-good movie should have: it’s adorable, it’s goofy, and it’s light. It runs only a little longer than 90 minutes, but it never outstays its welcome, and it has the same type of sincerity that made us fall in love with shows like Ted Lasso and Abbott Elementary. For some audience members, the corniness may become a bit too much of a good thing, but for many others, 80 for Brady will seem like a game that was played to its full potential.