We’re finally just hours away from the biggest day in American entertainment. For months, millions of people around the country have been hyping themselves up after closely following the careers of their favorite players. They held watch parties every week; they tracked the stats online; they placed thousands of dollars worth of bets. And it all comes down to one inescapable, monolithic event in February: the theatrical release of 80 for Brady.
If you thought for a second that I might’ve been talking about the Super Bowl, you just haven’t been paying attention (or, you somehow got here without reading the headline). This year, the biggest day in sports is being overshadowed by the biggest weekend in cinema. Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno, Sally Field, and Lily Tomlin will be shuffling their way into theaters this weekend for a performance far more entertaining than whatever Rihanna’s “mic” will “pick up” the following Sunday.
The conceit of 80 for Brady is like one of those unavoidable popup ads that have some sort of clickbaity (yet vaguely nonsensical) headline designed to attract impressionable internet users. “Four Grannies Go to the Super Bowl, What Happens Next Will Warm Your Heart.” Except that, in the case of 80 for Brady, there is no virus that will download immediately onto your hard drive for your curiosity. This is the fantasy world where we get everything that we were promised, rewarded for having a heart big enough to want four lovable seniors to have the time of their lives.
That may sound like a relatively straightforward time at the movies, but that’s exactly what 80 for Brady is offering: a dose of simple, sprightly fun.
80 for Brady opens by introducing us to four best friends, each in their late seventies or early eighties. Lou (Tomlin), Trish (Fonda), Maura (Moreno), and Betty (Field) have been gathering in Lou’s home every Sunday during football season to watch their beloved New England Patriots play.
The tradition began as an accident years prior when the women were all helping to take care of Lou after her final round of chemotherapy. A dead remote battery forced them to endure the landing channel’s football game, until they all became so enamored with the hunky Tom Brady that they started to watch out of pleasure and get into the sport.
The four best friends, who have named their group the “80 for Brady Club,” have spent so many games together that they’ve even developed their own superstitions. Trish has to be standing on a ladder at kickoff; Lou has to spill a bowl of chips; Maura needs to be drinking her tea.
Their eccentricities have strengthened their bond over the years, and when the Patriots make it into the 2017 Super Bowl, Lou decides that it’s time for them to take their love of the game to the next level by going in person. While the real group of loyal friends that the film is based on has never made it to football’s biggest game, the film gives them a spectacular imagining of their wildest dream.
This proves trickier than expected, of course. Super Bowl tickets do not come cheap. Each of the women hatches their own plan to try to win the tickets through a local radio contest, but Lou is extra motivated to get her hands on them. She purchases the tickets herself, letting her friends believe that they won the contest. But getting from Massachusetts to Texas for the game is its own challenge. Maura has to be broken out of the retirement home she’s staying in after her husband’s passing, while Betty needs to draw some clear boundaries with her beloved but needy husband.
All of that is just the rollercoaster climbing to the top, ready to drop down into a thrill ride of twisty fun once the 80 for Brady club gets on the road. Though it shies away from taking too many risks, 80 for Brady feels far more dependable than disappointing.
The script has plenty of gags that veer just close enough to raunch, like Trish’s penchant for writing smutty Rob Gronkowski fanfiction. In one particularly funny moment for Field, Betty urges the other women in the group to call the fanny pack where she keeps the Super Bowl tickets her “strap-on.” She insists that wearing it around her shoulder changes its name, because having a “strap-on” is more responsible than anything going near her fanny.
Every actor in 80 for Brady is loosely playing a version of themselves. Field’s character is dependable and headstrong; Moreno’s is adventurous and feisty; Fonda is sexy and commanding; and Tomlin is cantankerous but sweet. This film is not a complicated one for these actresses by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn’t have to be. 80 for Brady feeling like it’s taking place just left of reality is one of its ultimate comforts. There’s not an ounce of work that has to be done by its audience; this is real sit-back-and-relax fare.
Yet, for a fairly simple film, there sure is a lot happening in 80 for Brady to fill all of its 98 minutes. Cameos and familiar faces keep the film’s pacing as consistent as a fully-charged Jazzy Scooter. Guy Fieri makes a pilgrimage from Flavortown to grace the movie with his presence, helping our heroes get from point A to point B in multiple instances, while also providing a hilariously calming presence for Maura when she accidentally trips too hard on cannabis gummies at Fieri’s lavish Super Bowl party.
There’s also Harry Hamlin and Billy Porter, who play two fictional proxies of their real-life personas, solely existing to help the 80 for Brady club reach their ultimate goal: prime seats at the biggest game of the year.
But it’s Moreno, Fonda, Tomlin, and Field who infuse 80 for Brady with its everlasting charm. Each one of them is so game to play that they turn the movie into their own can’t-miss sporting event of sorts—for those of us who love a helping of mom cinema even more hearty than any eight-layer Super Bowl party dip. Each actress is so committed, so down to take the silliest slapstick jokes all the way to their fullest potential. These are the true MVPs (Most Vivacious Pensioners).
80 for Brady is smart enough to know that no one who’s paying money to see it in a theater is going to take it too seriously. Even its most sincere moments are pretty ephemeral, always falling back into the strength of its core club’s wonderful friendship instead of becoming too weepy or saccharine.
This makes for some uproariously conspicuous acting attempts from Tom Brady, who tries his very best to convey even an ounce of emotion from his soulless lizard eyes, while all four of the principal cast members can swing it with a split-second look. As if there weren’t enough reasons to see this movie in a theater, I don’t know that I—or the audience I was with—have laughed harder in 2023 than when Brady gives an emotional speech to Tomlin at the end of the film.
Luckily, it’s easy to forget that 80 for Brady exists as an egotistical vanity project for its titular producer. Its ebullient comedy and dedicated performances help the film transcend any errant narcissism and instead settle it nicely into the pantheon of wacky road trip comedies.
Why on earth anyone would want to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon in February in front of their television watching a football game—when they could be watching this movie instead—is beyond me. Who cares what team wins the Super Bowl? 80 for Brady is a surefire triumph where nobody loses and everybody goes home a champion.
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