It’s taken over 30 years to make its way to the big screen but the Cinderella story of ex-teacher/bartender Vince Papale’s triumph in the world of professional football came to life on the big screen in Invincible in 2006. Papale captured the attention of Philadelphia Eagles fans when he made it onto the team after Coach Dick Vermeil held open tryouts. The film version stars Mark Wahlberg as the lifelong football fan who just wanted his hometeam to play with heart – and maybe win a few game.
Invincible follows the rules of the football film genre very closely but also added a couple of innovations to popular sport genre. The movie followed popular cliches of football films with the “new coach” who has radical new ideas and during the final game of the movie the starring team is down at halftime. One major cliche that Invincible innovates is the cliche that the star actor is the leader on the team; instead, he is the low man on the team and actually doesn’t make any great contributions to the team.
In Invincible, the new and young coach Dick Vermeil is new to town and has a whole lot to prove. As much like most football films with a new coach, he has huge radical ideas for the teams operation. This is represented in the theme that he opens tryouts to anyone in the community to wants to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, mostly as a publicity stunt to bring fan support back up. This theme is also seen in “Remember the Titans” and “We are Marshall. This cliche often leads to a sub-cliche that the new coach has several obstacles to overcome and receives some sort of negative criticism in the early scenes of the film. This again is also shown in Invincible when the coach heavily gossiped about in the local pub where Papale works at. A second major cliche that is seen in numerous football films is the dramatic “final game” where the starring team is losing at halftime only to win in a last minute victory.
In Invincible’s case, the final game is against the Dallas Cowboys in a conference championship game. The team is of course down and out about to lose it all when all of the sudden Papale forces a fumble on a punt return that gives the Eagles a bit of hope. The Eagles go to score on the returning drive with a crucial kickoff to the cowboys. Paple who only plays special teams sprints down the field to recover the kickoff and run the ball into the endzone for a touchdown puts the Eagles in the lead for a victory.
The fact that Paple score a touchdown symbolizes the message that of the film which is that anyone can do anything they desire as long as the put forth the effort and determination. Often in football films the star player is hero of the team or the most talented. In Invincible the star play, Paple, is actually one of the less talented players on the team. Paple isn’t even one of the leaders on the team, for most of the film the rest of the team doesn’t like Paple because they think he doesn’t belong on the team nun the less the NFL.
During practice the other players’ intensely try to hurt him so that he may quit or be unable to play. Paple turns out to be a hero for his community rather than a hero for the team. His motivation to keep going is his teammate’s disapproval and his friend’s support, which I sends a message that one must always pull forward even if his peers or colleges are against them. Invincible is a great football film that relies on the classic under-dog story that for some reason never gets old.
The movie sends us messages that perseverance and determination lead to great things, which is very satisfying and compelling to witness. While this film follows most of the popular football film cliches, it still has its own key elements that make it unique. Football films such as Invincible and other renditions will always be cranked out of Hollywood on a regular basis for decades to come, but there’s just something about watching the beloved characters run down the field in slow-motion and jump high in the air for a dramatic last minute win, that never gets tiring to watch.
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