IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Playing pro football is a fantasy for millions of men-and the fantasy comes true for some in The Replacements (Warner Bros.; rated PG-13 for crude humor and language). A coach (Gene Hackman) recruits a team off the street to play out the season during an NFL strike. His quarterback (Keanu Reeves) is a former college star whose shot at the NFL was ruined during a disastrous bowl game.
These players are bullied by the regular team, spurned by season ticket holders, and otherwise denied the fame and respect due professional athletes. Yet they carry on with their mission of winning their franchise a playoff berth, in which they will never play.
The regular players are portrayed as spoiled, heartless millionaires, while the replacements care more about football than fortunes. The temporary team only gets a month in the spotlight before going back to regular life.
The Replacements follows the familiar sports movie formula, with all action leading toward the big game. The low point in this movie is a risqué running gag involving replacement cheerleaders. The high point is Mr. Hackman doing his version of a Tom Landry persona. He reminds his players that greatness can still be earned even when recognition and glory are absent.