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By Stina Chyn | October 22, 2007

One of the posters for the comedy “The Comebacks” (directed by Tom Brady—not to be confused with the quarterback of the New England Patriots) proclaims the following: The producers of “Wedding Crashers” spoof the greatest sports movies ever. Not a fan of sports films, even the greatest examples of all time? No problem. One glance at the tagline and you’ve already associated Brady’s film with the jokes and gags from “Wedding Crashers.” Translation: “The Comebacks” may not change your life, but it will be funny.

Former Saturday Night Live cast member David Koechner is Lambeau Fields (ha, ha), a coach who has never (or at least seldom) won the games that matter. After turning his back on this career and taking up a job in the horse breeding industry, Fields is lured back into coaching, and this time for the football team of Heartland State University, the Comebacks. After meeting his players and finalizing the roster, the film follows the path of any sports film: montage sequences of practices and games, introduction of love subplot, conflicts involving misunderstandings amongst characters, emphasis on the meaning of teamwork, and, of course, the big game.

Like “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood” (Paris Barclay, 1996) and “Not Another Teen Movie” (Joel Gallen, 2001), “The Comebacks” mixes characters and storylines from several films in the particular genre that it’s parodying. The sports movies that Brady’s film reinterprets are (in random order): “Rudy,” “Lucas,” “Invincible”, “Varsity Blues,” “Friday Night Lights”, “Bend It Like Beckham”, “Stick It”, “Bring It On”, “The Program,” “Miracle”, “Remember the Titans,” “Gridiron Gang,” “The Longest Yard” (both versions), “Radio,” “Dodgeball”, “Blue Crush”, “Rocky,” “Seabiscuit”, and my personal favorite, “The Last Boy Scout.”

The director and the writers undoubtedly possess a near encyclopedic amount of knowledge in this cinematic area, making overt references through dialogue and plot and covert allusions through recurring motifs. Unlike the creators of “Don’t Be a Menace” and “Not Another Teen Movie,” whose films demonstrated a level of genre deconstruction, Brady and crew are less interested in critically engaging with sports movies as a genre and more concerned with testing the audience’s pop-cultural capital. A glimmer of an exception lies in a running joke about the football players’ academic performance—they study after a victory and get good grades.

The first time I saw a poster for this film, I had read the tagline too quickly and thought it asserted: From the producers of “Wedding Crashers,” the greatest sports movies spoof ever. To be quite frank, “The Comebacks” is only a great sports movie spoof if you can identify the intertextual elements and appreciate the humor in including them; otherwise, it’s mostly eighty-four minutes of puns, double entendres, and Freudian slips.

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