Barely a few minutes in, it is evident that Home Team won’t be trying very hard to distinguish itself from usual sports-comedy fare, the likes of which we have seen countless times before.
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Reportedly based on Sean Payton’s stint as the coach of the New Orleans Saints, the movie begins with a peek into the 2009-11 NFL scandal that came to be known as ‘Bountygate’. However, the narrative promptly brushes the incident under the carpet, and instead points the floodlights on a hapless football team of 12-year-olds (Payton’s estranged son among them) who enlist Payton as their coach. If it were not for the passing references to Payton’s former life as an NFL guru, one could easily mistake him for another dad-turned-coach training his son’s football team.
With notable names including Kevin James, Taylor Lautner and Rob Schneider gracing the screen, the movie comes close to finding an emotional hook that could anchor its insipid storyline. But a string of unresolved plotlines, impossible scenarios and stereotypical characters sound the death knell early on. Sean Payton (played by James) is portrayed as a no-nonsense, aggressive coach who tells his players to ‘suck it up’ when they’re tired. When his mistrusting son confronts him about his decision to coach a gaggle of preteens, he has no answer. The tension between them is acknowledged, but never fully explored.
- Directors: Charles Kinnane, Daniel Kinnane
- Cast: Kevin James, Taylor Lautner, Rob Schneider, Jackie Sandler
- Duration: 95 minutes
- Storyline: A suspended NFL coach trains his estranged son’s football team, as hilarity ensues
The movie is barely consistent in its tone. Although it claims to be a ‘sports comedy’, the story is interspersed with moments of forced humour that feel misplaced, and it is unclear whether Home Team aspires to be a biopic, a sports movie or a family film. Even in its relatively serious scenes, it falls short of conjuring meaningful moments. The final nail in the coffin comes in the form of an unrealistic victory... during which Payton’s team secures a win by puking on their opponents. While the slapstick humour may appeal to children, this brand of comedy rarely elicits a chuckle in older audiences.
The story is also dented by a host of uninspiring personas; a bumbling assistant coach who doubles as a (sometimes literal) punching bag, a simpering single mom on the lookout for love, and a dull-witted assistant, to name a few. The saving grace of the film can be found in its child actors, who joyfully sink their teeth into their roles. The result is a pack of talkative, happy-go-lucky boys who understand football mostly through food metaphors.
Home Team takes too many detours, and tests the limits of its genre in trying to address everything from teenage awkwardness and young love to a career crisis. Much like the players in the movie, it is rather content with a touchdown than aspire for victory.
Home Team is currently streaming on Netflix