'80 for Brady' leaves legendary cast in need of a Hail Mary

Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Rita Moreno are in a 4th and long situation in this football-themed comedy.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

In the early goings of "80 for Brady," before it veers hard into slapstick territory and deflates like one of Tom Brady's footballs (sorry Tom, you're still the GOAT), the comedy about a foursome of octogenarian football fans has a lot to say about friendships forged through sports, and how sports connects people and brings them together. Sure, you're getting together to watch the game, but you're getting together, and that's the important part.

Rita Moreno, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Lily Tomlin in "80 for Brady."

Perhaps that's a bit too nuanced a theme for a big screen comedy these days, so "80 for Brady" supplements that message with gags. Sally Field entering a wing eating contest hosted by Guy Fieri? Rita Moreno eating weed gummies? Why sure, yes please. Except those gags aren't all that funny, and the friendship angle is a much more endearing approach.

"80 for Brady," which is oddly timed to this week's announcement of superstar quarterback Tom Brady's retirement, centers on four senior Brady superfans who follow their hero to the 2017 Super Bowl. The casting is a coup, with screen greats Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda joining Field and Moreno — so what if two of them aren't in their 80s, who are you the birthday police? — as the gang of gal pals, who figure they're not getting any younger, so they might as well go to the Super Bowl to root on No. 12 in person.

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The trip is especially urgent for Lou (Tomlin), who beat cancer but is worried it may be coming back. She sees the trip as a way to celebrate life and spend precious time with her friends Trish (Fonda), Betty (Field) and Maura (Moreno), and the ladies all wear fabulous bedazzled Brady jerseys.

Off to Houston they go. They revel in the NFL Experience, a fan celebration that doubles as a mid-movie ad for the greatness of the NFL, and find themselves involved in various shenanigans. This is where "80 for Brady" turns episodic and rudimentary, and you wish screenwriters Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins (the pair were co-writers of 2019's "Booksmart") had come up with something better for our heroines to do.

There's a loopy sequence late in the film where the gang busts into the New England Patriots' offensive coordinators' suite and Lou is able to talk to Brady over headsets, giving him the pep talk he needs to rally from behind against the Atlanta Falcons. (The film uses real footage from Super Bowl LI, though it's clear the rights to the game's play-by-play call were not included in the movie's contract.) It's that kind of all-in absurdity the film could have used more of if it was going to take the sheer comic route, and too often it settles for routine sitcom-lite situations that feel like lazy play calls.

Still, there's magic in the casting of Tomlin, Fonda, Field and Moreno, a Super Bowl quartet of talent that is deserving of something better than "80 for Brady." It's a hell of a team, but the play calling could use a little polish.

'80 for Brady'


Rated PG-13: for brief strong language, some drug content and some suggestive references

Running time: 98 minutes

In theaters