Written by on March 28, 2022

I had stayed away from the film “Home Team” on Netflix for a few reasons. First, it is a somewhat a true story. It isn’t an in depth look into it’s subject and the trials and tribulations of their story. It looked like it would be a comedic look at the subject which immediately gives me reason to doubt it. Second, it is about New Orleans’ Saints head coach, Sean Payton. Payton was infamously involved in the NFL scandal known as Bounty-gate where his staff was paying players to purposefully hurt other players on the opposing team. Vikings fans are very aware of this as the Saints did all they could to injure Brett Favre in the NFC Championship game as they went on to win the Super Bowl. Payton was subsequently suspended from the NFL for a year as was some of his staff, but then were all let back in even though they aren’t all with the Saints anymore. So with hard feelings bubbling under my skin I decided to watch it hoping that since it was a an Adam Sandler produced film that it might provide a few laughs. Kevin James plays Payton as a gruff and not very kind individual. Once he gets suspended he decides that maybe he should reconnect with his son that it seems that he pretty much forgot about in Texas with his ex-wife, Beth played by Jackie Sandler. Yes, she’s Adam’s wife. The ex-wife has, of course remarried and it’s to a man bun wearing, zen master played by Rob Schneider who they try to paint as an annoying foil for Sean, but actually may be the more likable character. The first problem I saw here was the obvious setup the audience is given that Payton is going to be a hero to everyone by the end of the movie. How will he do that? By coaching his son’s youth football team!

James plays the character well and his main antagonist in the film is the hotel that he stays at manager, Eric. He makes Payton suffer the most with his inattentive actions and flippant attitude. It is an OK bit, but feels done before and doesn’t add much other than possibly a veiled attempt to make Eric a mirror of Sean’s attitude towards other people. Basically, he doesn’t care. Along with his exploits at the hotel he is saddled with his son’s team which is a rag tag bunch of lovable losers coached by an earnest Taylor Lautner and a drunk, overweight assistant played by Gary Valentine who is just there for cheap laughs at his expense. They even portray him as drunk at one game and Payton notices it, but says nothing and just makes a confused face. The kids are pretty decent actors and Tait Blum, who plays Connor Payton does a very good job playing a kid who is mad at his father for not being there. Of course when Sean sees how bad these kids are at playing football he inserts himself into the program and takes everything over. What happens next?! They start to win! And with that everyone starts to like each other and get along! HOORAY! Unlike life they made this happen all too easy.

There are some moments in the film that could have really been addressed with more fervor. The sideline dads that don’t like the changes and become very vocal about it was a clear reflection of what some coaches see in real life. Other than making the two dads feel a little bad for how they acted they kind of stray away from that narrative. Then you have the one big kid that is afraid to get hit when he plays defense so he moves him to offense. They put the kid at fullback and then….. they just kind of don’t talk about it again. They have a kid who’s a kicker that can’t make any kicks in games due to his crush being in the stands that they touch on and then kind of don’t talk about it again. Of course the biggest story is Payton’s own kid that is resentful, but things change as they win and his dad becomes more involved in his life. That story they stick with a little more. The main story is if we will see a change in the coach and his attitude and what got him here. That’s the payoff, right? The problem is that you get that for maybe a few minutes in the film and then it’s also gone. Maybe that’s the most real part of the film is that Sean Payton doesn’t really change because he barely has in real life. He may not cheat or pay players to hurt other players, but he mocks fans on the sidelines and has even made chocking gestures at opposing team’s kickers when they have missed a kick. Even when they try to have an absolute jerk of a coach on the reigning championship team to make Payton look better it doesn’t work. You are just left wondering if one is worse than the other, but in different ways. The movie really just kind of wanders all over the place before it decides to give a bit of a moral and then bring all those little side stories together and put a bow on them and say to the viewer, “There you go.” This might be a good movie to check out if you want to see how a youth coach shouldn’t act, but it is not a movie that kids will watch and suddenly be inspired to be a better person or player. Instead, they may try to order pizza during the game or think they need to throw up on the other team to win.

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