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Necessary Roughness
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by Jack Sommersby

"Passable Football Comedy"
3 stars

While far from a box-office smash, it chalked up a reasonable $26,255,594 during it's theatrical run in the U.S. off a modest budget.

Due to the amount of adverse reviews I write, I’m sometimes asked if I just go to a movie in the hope of actually enjoying it, which, of course, I find absurd -- if I hated Chinese food, would I frequent Chinese restaurants just so I could endlessly bash them? I ask nothing more than to be entertained, and for the majority of its almost-two-hour running time, the football comedy Necessary Roughness provides a fair amount of entertainment. It’s nothing special, mind you, and there’s a isn’t a good deal of originality to it, but I’ve found myself sitting through many “prestige” pictures that haven’t an iota of its easygoing charm. Set at the fictional Texas State University, whose championship football program was found to have been in violation of the NCAA’s rules regarding recruitment bribes and manufactured passing grades, the movie details the trials and tribulations of newly-hired head coach Ed Gennero (Hector Elizondo) to field his Fighting Armadillos with players with passing grade-point averages; the pickings are slim, and though he’s enlisted the help of his longtime friend Wally Rig (Robert Loggia) as defensive coach, the only students going out for the team are mostly inadequate, especially a mediocre quarterback who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, and a fast but butterfingered wide receiver appropriately nicknamed Edward Scissorhands. Added to which, due to there not being enough players for both offensive and defense, the only option is to play iron-man football with the team playing both ways. But a revelation comes their way: that of thirty-four-year-old farmer Paul Blake (Scott Bakula), who was a high-school star of a quarterback back in his day but whose college days were cut short due to the death of his father; Paul has been content with running the family business all these years, but he’s still been keeping his passing abilities sharp, and when asked by Wally to come out for the team, despite some initial resistance he eventually agrees. There are some obstacles, naturally. The teams they play are chock-full of better athletes whose football programs aren’t under investigation; and the dastardly dean, Phillip Elias (Larry Miller), who was responsible for exposing the previous program’s malfeasance and is looking for any reason to see that the Armadillos have quite the losing season. There’s also journalism professor Suzanne Carter (Harley Jane Kozak), whose class Paul attends and who soon becomes his love interest, and soccer wonder Lucy Draper (Kathy Ireland) as the team’s ace place-kicker and the first female player in the team’s history. The only real novelty is not the Armadillos vying for a winning season, but the arduous task of coming up with a single win, which they finally have a chance at in their final game against the number-one team in the country.

Lord knows I was far from a fan of director Stan Dragoti’s previous works (The Man with One Red Shoe, She’s Out of Control), but his technical sense has improved along with his judgment in that he finally has an inkling of what will and will not suitably play on the silver screen. Inexplicably, he’s become competent. The football sequences are adequately staged, and if there’s a single boring moment in between them I didn’t notice (thankfully, there’s an absence of the kind of vapid talking-heads padding you usually get in this subgenre); Dragoti isn’t even remotely offering up anything indicative of high art, but he’s improved in getting in and out of scenes with assuredness and installing something of a consistent rhythm that keeps the movie humming along. Oh, one can carp that the stand-up comedian Miller comes down too hard on his line readings and doesn’t provide a single humorous moment, but another stand-up comedian, Sinbad, is enjoyable as a six-foot-five astronomy professor who joins the team, and Rob Schneider is his equal as a smart-alecky sports announcer delivering one zinger after another (when a punt is blocked, “Not much hang time on that one”). Kudos also to Elizondo and Loggia, two of the best character actors in the business, who have a believable rapport and get an incorrigible Punch-and-Judy routine going reminiscent of the Wilford Brimley/Richard Farnsworth pairing in The Natural. But it’s Bakula who holds the movie together. A television actor who made his cinematic debut in the moronic Sibling Rivalry the year before, Bakula is reasonably charismatic and very relaxed; he doesn’t go in for any two-fisted machismo, and while he isn’t exactly a commanding screen presence he has a great deal of appeal and is believable as a team captain capable of rallying his players when it’s most needed (“You’re hurt. You’re tired. You’re bleeding. I’m gonna make you a promise: we get into that end zone, you’re not gonna feel any pain”). Necessary Roughness has a ho-hum title, and it’s not in the same league as the Robert Aldrich-directed The Longest Yard (with Burt Reynolds) and the Ron Shelton-scripted The Best of Times (with Robin Williams and Kurt Russell); the studio, Paramount Pictures, obviously wanted something safely formulaic that wouldn’t possibly offend or challenge anyone, and they certainly got their wish in that the movie pretty much evaporates from your mind five minutes after the closing credits. It’s a generic “product,” all right, but I’m fairly certain undemanding audiences aren’t going to carp -- it’s the very definition of a “matinee movie” designed and engineered to sate those with low expectations. The PG-13-rated Necessary Roughness could’ve used some of the raunchy wit that made the R-rated Major League such a kick, but within its own limited spectrum it scores at least a few field goals if not a touchdown.

The DVD sports a fine transfer but not even a theatrical trailer for a special feature.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25376&reviewer=327
originally posted: 02/05/15 12:59:25
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell dull football comedy 1 stars
6/10/16 david froman average 90's sports film 3 stars
6/30/13 Charles Tatum Often painful football comedy 2 stars
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  27-Sep-1991 (PG-13)



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