Film Review: 80 for Brady
By Joseph Beyer | Feb. 18, 2023
If you’re tempted to fall for the marketing and take your mom, grandma, or bestie to 80 for Brady thinking that you’ll have a great time, let me try to run interference and encourage you to call an audible for something else.
While it’s clear that 80 for Brady was created in good faith, that’s entirely what makes it so offensive; not even the combined star power of Lily Tomlin, Sally Field, Rita Moreno, and Jane Fonda as a girl gang can save a plot so flimsy and thin it might only have one side.
For pigskin fans hoping they’ll enjoy the movie as followers of superstar quarterback and chronic-retiree Tom Brady, even an off schedule pre-season game will have more inherent NFL drama, despite being produced by the film’s namesake. The pee-wee plot could be held in a thimble and seems more suited to a movie of the week than the big screen.
Here’s the gist: Four elderly but young-at-heart friends become unlikely New England Patriots fans who will do anything it takes to get tickets to the Super Bowl, where they hope to cheer on their favorite player. Along the way, anything can go wrong (and does!).
With talents the likes of these remarkable actresses, it’s difficult to believe the characters were given so little to work with and finally reduced to four silly shells: the cancer survivor worried about the end; the lonely widow trying to pick up her life; the fading beauty and serial dater; and the doting housewife who wakes up one day and realizes she’s spent her whole life serving an ungrateful man.
There are other men besides Tom Brady in the film’s story along the way (you’ll recognize them by their old man ways and their cardigan sweaters), but they don’t add much to the story except running Hot Wingz contests and being lonely at puzzles. The only flash of promising creativity in director Kyle Marvin’s work is an interstitial series of magic-realism dream sequences featuring Brady himself speaking to the lead character in Tomlin.
What’s so remarkable about the juvenile screenplay written by Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins (of Booksmart fame), is not that is seems to follow every predictable Syd Field rule in the playbook but that the film is actually based on a true story—which, when revealed in the end credits, seemed infinitely more interesting that the 1-hour-48-minute Bran-Flakes fiasco I just sat through.
The film has a singular level of complexity and no shame using every granny-pack joke in the AARP arsenal (including cougar romance in a broom closet and mistaking sleeping pills for cholesterol medication).
On a Friday night screening with about 30 other audience members, the PG-13 film elicited not one measurable crowd laugh or response except, in the end, a few groans. For a comedy that promised to surprise and delight, I’m still wondering...how did they go wrong?
Instead of the mastery of The Golden Girls where hilarity, pathos, and ensemble work created vivid inner lives for characters that could touch anyone, 80 for Brady’s most unsportsmanlike conduct is not trusting us to love the characters on their own for who they are, no matter their age.