80 For Brady is an autopilot comedy that makes a passive play at boomer humor and Super Bowl silliness. It feels as though a film like this could make for a fun farce through its sweetness of a true story and the strong ingredients of an all-star ensemble. Sadly, it’s more of a passive piece of humor that is sincere enough to be innocent but milder than wild when it comes to its hijinks.
What helps make this film pleasant is the casting. Lily Tomlin is bursting with heart and heartache as the recovering cancer patient Lou is inspired to make her Super Bowl dreams come true. She watches the Patriots weekly with her best friends, all adhering to their superstitious traditions for winning and their undying love for Tom Brady. Jane Fonda gets into it as Trish, a lusty writer who dabbles in erotic football fanfiction. Rita Moreno finds some comfort in the game as Maura, a woman who still hasn’t gotten over the death of her husband. Sally Field is a married nerd, Betty, who has problems with being herself.
These are all accomplished actresses who mostly flex their ease of comedic acting in a script that ambles through funny ideas that don’t entirely take off. I loved Tomlin’s playful leadership, but she’s served such easy moments of small sweetness and silliness. This ranges from her concealment of secrets during the Super Bowl trip and her infectious enthusiasm when winning NFL fan events against younger folks. Fonda is charming if not toned down in her frisky nature, where the possibility of wild sex during this trip seems sadly out of range. Moreno has moments of developing trust, but she seems to take an accidental drug trip in a stable stride. Field perhaps embodies the very essence of the film’s timidness as she slowly comes out of her shell.
This film features lost tickets, wild parties, celebrity poker, a hot-wings eating competition, a dance-off, escaping security, tripping out on drugs, hanging out with Guy Fieri, and hallucinating Tom Brady. Doesn’t it feel like this film should be a wild adventure comedy? For as much Tom Brady was willing to be involved with this picture, he mostly ambles through like a standard celebrity cameo, far too self-conscious to step out of the safe zone for a picture that carries his name. Punchlines either don’t land (perhaps the direction was hoping the actresses would fill in the blanks), or they arrive far too late to be funny. For example, Sally Field wins a hot-wings contest, and I was waiting for the punchline about her having no tastebuds or a history of spicy or something. There’s nothing, and she only later admits that she was lying about the wings not being hot.
80 For Brady is one of those passive comedies that has more heart than hilarity, despite all the ingredients present to make a better comedy. As much as the film never made me laugh, I still smiled at its corny yet confident sentimental moments. I really did want to see Lily Tomlin make a heartfelt plea to Tom Brady and later swap jerseys, but that’s more out of the fact that Tomlin is excellent in her bedazzled jersey and is trying to squeeze blood out of this stone of a script which was in desperate need of another draft.