The Comebacks

Does it surprise anyone in America that a film like The Comebacks sucks? After all, it’s a Fox Atomic release, a genre studio arm for 20th Century Fox that, with the exception of 28 Weeks Later, doesn’t have a great track record. Add to this the fact that they didn’t screen this movie for anyone, and I mean anyone.

Seriously, no one was permitted to see this movie prior to its release… not even the general public… not even the director’s mother. The studio saw the writing on the wall for this one, and it should be apparent to us because the funniest clips in the trailer aren’t really all that funny.

Like last year’s Date Movie and this year’s Epic Movie, The Comebacks is a spoof on a type of film that really should have been left alone. While Mel Brooks pioneered the modern spoof, and the ZAZ guys perfected it in the 1980s with Airplane!, it is proved time and again that just because a good spoof looks easy doesn’t mean anyone can do it.

The Comebacks skewers inspirational sports movies in the lamest of ways. It loosely follows what visiting aliens might interpret as a plot about a washed up coach named Lambeau Fields (David Koechner) who takes a job coaching a washed up college football team in Texas. Most of the film draws from football films, including a reference to Radio that’s even more annoying than the original film.

However, the writing never stays on course at all. Like a drunk in a bar fight, the script lashes out at anything that has a sports reference. It doesn’t bother the filmmakers that no one saw Stick It. They’re going to use a plot point from that, which is almost as out of place as their Blue Crush reference.

Most movies like this either have an anchor funnyman or a great ensemble cast to make things work. Or at least they toss Steve Carell into a scene somewhere. While there are some funny actors whose talents might emerge if under a different director on a different script, no one is a true leader, and Steve Carell is noticeably absent (probably a plus to his career).

In The Comebacks, Koechner proves that while he’s a tremendous supporting player, he’s nothing but a low-low-rent Will Ferrell in the leading role. He tries everything from Ferrell’s bag of tricks, including stripping down to his underwear and running around in public. If you ever thought Will Ferrell’s flabby body is unappealing, just wait until you feast your eyes on Koechner’s doughy torso complete with a herniated belly button. It’s enough to gag a maggot… and not in a good way.

I once read a dead-on criticism of Date Movie in which the reviewer made the observation that the writers seemed to think that just referencing a film or pop culture icon was good enough for the joke. This practice is taken to the extreme in The Comebacks. For example, in one scene, the characters break into a music video of Journey’s “Small Town Girl” which has relevance to the film and really isn’t a humor moment. Maybe director Tom Brady just liked Journey.

To make a good spoof, the writers have to be at least consistent with themselves. Otherwise, the jokes just don’t make sense. This is another problem with The Comebacks. In some scenes, the hot young quarterback Lance Truman (Matthew Lawrence) displays overt homosexual tendencies, and in the next scene is enthralled with Brooke Nevin’s pigskin breasts. Either stick with the gay jokes or don’t, people. Just don’t confuse your audience!

I can’t say that The Comebacks is the worst movie of the year, or even the worst movie of the season. There’s too many weepy, preachy, Oscar-bait dramas that take this ribbon. But it is a doozy of a stinker. Still, I will give the film some credit for not taking itself too seriously… but only a little.

The Upside: It’s not an Oscar film, and it runs a merciful 86 minutes.

The Downside: Not funny… and they don’t even try fart jokes.

On the Side: Sadly, this will probably rake in money, just like Epic Movie did.

Grade: D

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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