80 For Brady Review: Talented Performers Show There's Still New Life In Well-Worn Tropes

With a flawlessly rhymed title and a seemingly random premise, "80 for Brady" seems like it had to be scripted after said title was conceived. Surprisingly, no ... the oddly rhythmic idea was concocted after a real set of atypical Patriot fan friends began gathering together to enjoy the most unexpected of stereotypically macho sports. It's a unique dynamic, and the odd specificity of the tale allows Tom Brady (who also produces the film) to serve as a sort of MacGuffin. The characters' mountain-moving love for the winning quarterback is the "Pulp Fiction" briefcase of sports comedy plot devices, and "80 for Brady" uses that love for both humorously surreal moments and to spark moments of emotional revelation.

The uniqueness of the central premise allows "80 for Brady" to stand somewhat apart from many of the tropes it might otherwise too closely resemble. It involves a road trip, but it isn't a road trip movie à la "Little Miss Sunshine" or "Smoke Signals." It's a sports film that highlights characters' reactions to the sport instead of highlighting the drama of the sport itself. There are many moments that provoke a feeling of curious, inescapable familiarity, but the charm and novelty of its distinguished performers adds enough new flair to make the film shine.

"80 for Brady" isn't reinventing the wheel. It's a parade of moments that are often more charming than laugh-out-loud funny, but it's elevated by the caliber of its talent, Sally Field and Rita Moreno in particular. It pulls together aspects of many divergent comedy narratives in a delicate balance, and it's done with the confidence of a posse of octogenarian football fanatics. There are more than enough successful moments of levity to show that, though it borrows from tropes we've certainly seen before, there's life in those old tropes yet.

Some missed comedic potential but loads of charm

"80 for Brady," inspired by said real-life set of Patriot fans, follows a fearsome foursome of octogenarians (well, one's in her 70's) who gather together to support their favorite football team, the New England Patriots, and their favorite player, Tom Brady. The ritual started 16 years prior when they gathered at the home of Lou (Lily Tomlin) during a key moment in her fight against cancer. Lou and her friends — widower Maura (Rita Moreno), romance author Trish (Jane Fonda), and the brilliant Betty (Sally Field) — enter a contest to win tickets to see the Patriots at the Super Bowl, and (unsurprisingly) shenanigans ensue.

Tomlin is solid as the film's emotional center and the driver behind the Super Bowl trek. She certainly does enough to land the character's journey, though an emotional moment at the end doesn't quite rise above the slightly too-saccharine situation. Fonda is strong in what she's given as the charismatic Trish, though her character doesn't have many of the film's more memorable moments. Moreno brings a lot of heart to Maura, and her comedic timing centers one of the film's most memorable sequences (think a TV food aficionado with spiky, bleached hair). The under-sung hero of the film, however, is Sally Field, who consistently brings a strong performance and great comedic timing, shining throughout and grounding one of the group's most entertaining subplots.

The unfortunate thing is that a lot of the film's hands are underplayed in ways that erode emotional impact. Sure, it's a comedy, and a fairly lighthearted one at that. At the same time, the reality of cancer diagnoses are part of the film's narrative ... why not develop them more, and give such skilled actresses time to take these moments seriously? Additionally, there are a number of talented comedic performers whose efforts are similarly shortchanged, not quite given enough to do nor enough time to do it. It's an ensemble comedy that doesn't quite know how to use entire sections of its ensemble, making for serious wasted potential. At the same time, from a performance standpoint watching four actresses of such caliber is a treat, and they play off each other expectedly well.

Somewhat uneven, but a breezy good time overall

"80 for Brady" knows it's aiming for well-trod comedic ground, and it's clear from its opening credits that it's leaning into that nostalgic comedy tone. By and large, it's successful at capturing that energy, though structurally "80 for Brady" is a little uneven. The beginning drags until the group really gets going. There are a few gags, like how the octogenarians enlist a small army of comrades to try and acquire tickets, but until the journey starts it all feels like a going-through-the-motions preshow until the game begins. 

Similarly, the resolution of certain end crises really feels rushed through and abruptly resolved, when we could have had more time to build emotion and land the importance of certain moments and choices. If those emotional moments are going to be in the narrative, it's unfortunate that their impact didn't meet its potential. The humor is also uneven, with some characters clearly having fewer funny and engaging on-screen antics than others. Field's Betty and Moreno's Maura are hilarious in some major, memorable moments, while Fonda's Trish is given many functional plot moments but few laugh-out-loud funny ones. There's serious missed potential there. All that said, from the friends' arrival at the Super Bowl to their slew of adventures during the game, the story is an amusing, low-consequence romp with a number of memorable scenes. 

"80 for Brady" isn't the most original play in the playbook, minus the sheer atypicality of aiming a gang of protagonists with around almost 400 years between them at a sports event for which they aren't the usual fanbase. That said, the comedy has enough charm, memorable moments, and charismatic performances from legendary actresses that it's a good, breezy time. It does seem to aim directly towards audiences in both the Post War generation and the New England/Brady fanbase, but there's enough outside these elements to make this gal pal outing a good time for a broader slew of audiences. 

/Film Rating: 7 out of 10