HOME TEAM (NETFLIX) (2022)
SYNOPSIS: Two years after a Super Bowl win when NFL head coach Sean Payton is suspended, he goes back to his hometown and finds himself reconnecting with his 12 year old son by coaching his Pop Warner football team.
At this point in time, any production that bears the Happy Madison banner will not receive much street cred let alone a decent rating from the critics. The latest effort from producers Adam Sandler and Kevin James is a prime example and frankly, it’s actually a more than decent effort than say, Grown Ups.
Supposedly based on a true story, James also the leading man here plays Sean Peyton, a legendary NFL coach who is suspended for a year because of a scandal. While he awaits for the outcome of his appeal, he went back to his Texas hometown hoping to reconnect with his estranged teenage son, Connor. It turned out Connor is on one of the worst high school football team in history. At the encouragement of Connor’s football coach, Troy (Taylor Lautner), Sean decides to co-coach the team for the season. And of course, you know how sports movies go.
Being a Happy Madison production means you can forget about delving deep into the details of the scandal. We heard it’s a pretty big thing back in 2011. Even though there’re some serious allegations about injuring opposing footballers but Home Team is not the movie about it. Nor is it a movie as complex as Moneyball which focused on a strategized way of recruiting players. In other words, Home Team is a family friendly sports drama in the vein of The Mighty Ducks.
With a troubled protagonist looking to redeem himself and a bunch of ragtag misfits looking to win the championship, the story banks most of its laughs and comic-relief on the movie’s supporting players liked Paulie (Maxwell Simkins) who loves to order pizza at the wrong time and Harlan (Manny Magus) who can’t do a proper kick because he is smitten with a girl he loves. And there is Rob Schneider who returns to the screen after a long hiatus as Connor’s vegan stepfather and Sandler’s nephew Jared acting as an unfunny incompetent hotel clerk/handyman.
At least Kevin James didn’t fumble his way through thankfully not in a Paul Blart kind of way. As Sean Peyton, James at least plays an earnest believable guy who is out to reconnect with his son. There’s a recurring gag about a problematic jacuzzi but it’s not as irritable as the antics carried out by Assistant Coach Mitch played by James’ real-life brother, Gary. There are some confusing football terms and technicality littered around and messages about conflict resolution, this is a formulaic sports comedy after all.
Home Team is kind of a mixed bag in the end. As a sports movie featuring a bunch of robust kids, it’s pretty serviceable. For a movie that is based on a true real-life character, it’s sort of goes nowhere in particular. At least Happy Madison tries to steer away from bad jokes and haphazard storytelling this round, just give Sandler and his friends a chance.
Review by Linus Tee