Disney's live action department has had a real passion for making inspirational films about sports over the years. From The Rookie to Miracle and Remember the Titans, each of these endeavors has done well enough to keep the genre alive. The latest such project, Invincible, ensures that we'll be watching Disney sports films for years to come.
The year was 1975 and Philadelphia's economy was going down the tubes thanks to layoffs and strikes. Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg) was living in a small apartment with his wife and, like everybody else, found themselves with financial headaches. To make a long story short Vince gets fired from his teaching job and his wife divorces him, stating that he'll never get anywhere in life. This leaves Vince alone and broken with his only source of income being from his job as a bartender.
He goes through the routine motions of life and degrees of depression while spending his off time playing football with his buddies and rooting for the Eagles. Unfortunately the Philadelphia team perpetually loses and naturally breaks the heart of the city (this is a touchy feely Disney movie after all). When they hire a new coach, Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) the fans take notice and when Vermeil announces an open tryout for any Joe off the street.
Vince's friends all goad him into making an appearance at the tryouts and it's an idea that he squashes at first. After evaluating his position in life he does decide to give it a shot but what happened next was something he wasn't expecting; he was picked. He soon becomes the local favorite and oldest rookie in NFL history (30 years old). The rest, as they say, is history and I'm not going to divulge much into what happens during the rest of the picture. Let's just say it follows typical Disney inspirational sports stuff right down to the wire; hero rises, hero falls, hero rises again and everyone lives happily ever after.
Whether it was the direction that the real Papale and Vermeil gave for the script or decisive choices by the director there are some bits that just seem too unbalanced for the good of the picture. Papale is often portrayed as the patron saint of football and as a bloke that can do no wrong no matter how hard he tries as long as he has heart and a winning smile. It's ironic then that even when he does screw up and the Eagles lose a game it's not really about the rest of the team; it's all about him.
I get that Papale is supposed to be the center of attention for this picture but it's taken to a level that feels a little over-the-top. Just about every waking second focuses on him. So much so that when the script introduces Vermeil and his storyline it almost feels like a completely separate focal point. Papale's tale of rags to riches is inspire to be sure but Vermeil's side of the coin of picking up a dying franchise and trying to turn them into a viable team is equally interesting. Unfortunately there isn't much balance between the two and as such it makes the film feel very uneven in the end.
Performances were good overall though I felt that Kinnear one-upped Wahlberg in just about every scene. I don't mean to say that Wahlberg did a poor job with this film; he didn't, I just had a hard time buying his portrayal of Vince most of the time (though maybe it was the wig). I also had a hard time believing the relationship between Vince and a fellow bartender. Their relationship is almost forced into the script and there is no real chemistry to latch on to.
Despite its shortcomings Invincible is still a movie with heart and some decent performances. It will leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling after watching it even though it can be a little too sentimental for its own good. This is an inspirational Disney at its best and follows a pretty strict set of guidelines as far as its direction goes. It's not exactly the kind of movie where you "stand up and cheer" but it's certainly one that is family friendly and stands up to multiple viewings.
Invincible is presented on Blu-ray with a 50GB disc and MPEG 2 at 18 MBPS. The picture comes through with full 1080p HD resolution and an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. As far as its technical presentation is concerned the transfer here is very high quality. Most every scene is crisp with a great display and depth to the image though some are better than others. A few moments in between revealed a slight bit of noise in the background but this seemed to be partly attributed to the stylized sepia-like tone of the image.
Invincible goes out of its way to recreate the nostalgic feel of 1975, so much so that it bronzes the picture and tweaks the contrast for dramatic effect. The end result is an image that offers a high dose of clarity but also does not look natural. Skin tones are often golden and particular colors such as greens and blues look awkward. This isn't a byproduct of the Blu-ray disc but it does create minor issues such as the aforementioned grain.
While it won't get the most out of your surround system Invincible does feature a decent spread across all channels. The disc is presented with uncompressed (48kHz/16-bit) English 5.1 as well as English and French 5.1 Dolby Digital. The effects were nice especially during the intense football moments with the crowd roaring and players hitting each other. The music got the most play from the rear channels though bits of dialogue filtered from the front end. Some parts of the experience were a little more subdued than I was expecting but overall I was pleased. Invincible presents a good clean offering that is technically sound and free of flaw. You won't be disappointed.
Utilizing the capacity of the 50GB disc Disney has opted to include some supplemental features with its release of Invincible. Since support of bonus content is spotty at best, even the fact that some of the extras from the standard DVD were ported over is a plus.
Here you'll find two audio commentaries to listen to. The first, and most interesting, includes Vince Papale, Producer Mark Ciardi, and Writer Brad Gann. It was a lot of fun to hear Papale chime in on particular moments of the film and with support from Ciardi and Gann the commentary provides a lot of insight into the picture. The other commentary includes Director Ericson and Editor Jerry Greenberg and basically covers the technical mumbo-jumbo regarding the production of the film. This commentary was definitely on the drier side with more information than personality being pervasive.
"Becoming Invincible: The Story of Vince Papale" is another feature that makes its way onto this Blu-ray release and is basically a documentary about Papale. This featurette does little more than pat Papale's back and boast about the film's cast but it's interesting just the same. It gives a good bit of background to the man the movie was based on and helps flesh some things out that the film didn't. Apart from this tidbit there is also a Blu-ray exclusive feature called "Recreating the Vet" which is all about the creation of the stadium and use of special effects in the picture. The nice deal here is that the eight minute extra is in 1080p to go along with the film's presentation.
Whether you like them or hate them you have to admit that the Disney inspirational sports genre is a tough contender. Movies like Invincible really please the crowd with feel good stories, good performances, and cookie-cutter ups and downs. This particular film is no different. There's plenty to love about Invincible despite the fact that it's predictable and lacking in the balance department. This Blu-ray gets a nice treatment from Disney as well with a good supply of bonus features and quality presentation. Recommended
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