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Review: Tom Brady is no match for the comedic stars of ’80 for Brady’

Four older women wearing number 12 New England Patriots jerseys walking into a stadium
Rita Moreno, left, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Lily Tomlin in the movie “80 for Brady.”
(Scott Garfield / Paramount Pictures)
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Tom Brady may have seven Super Bowl rings, but that’s nothing compared to perhaps the winningest group of legends ever assembled. Just take a look at the stats: first up, Jane Fonda, with two Oscars, seven Golden Globes and two Tony nominations under her belt. Next, Lily Tomlin, boasting six Emmys, two Tonys and a Grammy, and Sally Field, coming in hot with two Oscars, three Emmys and two Golden Globes. Rounding out the team is the EGOT herself, Rita Moreno. Count ’em: Oscar, Grammy, Tony and two Emmys, plus a Golden Globe for good luck. This fearsome foursome star in “80 for Brady,” a tale about a group of octogenarian football fans and a wild weekend at the 2017 Super Bowl.

Based on the trailers and ads for “80 for Brady,” featuring these iconic actresses in bedazzled New England Patriots jerseys and an eye-searingly offensive blond wig on Jane Fonda, the outlook seemed dire for this sassy football comedy. It’s a relief to report that “80 for Brady” has a case of “bad trailer,” and that the resulting film is funnier and more charming than expected.

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Writing duo Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins (“Booksmart,” “Trophy Wife”) penned the script, while actor-producer Kyle Marvin (“The Climb,” “WeCrashed”) makes his feature directorial debut. Based on a unique group of real Tom Brady superfans, “80 for Brady” lands at the juncture of “Book Club” and “Fever Pitch.”

Tomlin’s character, Lou, is the heart of the movie, the biggest superfan of them all, enforcing the group’s superstitions and encouraging them to enter a contest for free tickets. Around her flit Trish (Fonda), a former “Mayflower Girl” who falls in love easily and often; the recently widowed and grieving Maura (Moreno); and Betty (Field), a sharp MIT math professor who likes to remind them all she’s in her 70s, not her 80s. When the gals get a lucky break with the tickets, they make their way to Houston to catch the Super Bowl in person.

The cinematography by Oscar winner John Toll is serviceable at best, and visually, there is not much to remark upon, aside from Fonda’s rotating wig wardrobe, which is explained, though that doesn’t make them any less ostentatious. Her look is fit for Dolly Parton, who collaborated on a song for the film, making this a proper “9 to 5” reunion.

The comedy isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, and the story beats are almost painfully predictable, but the picture hangs together thanks to this group of legends and the loose, absurdist humor of the screenplay. Marvin has wisely stacked the supporting cast with comedians and celebs to keep things fresh and funny for this quartet to bounce off, and Alex Moffat and Rob Corddry keep up a steady patter of Boston-accented banter as a pair of Patriots commentators who keep us non-football folk following the action.

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Naturally, there are several cameos from former Patriots themselves, including Brady, who makes his way, just not all that impressively, through a third-act speech. He’s at least game for the high jinks at hand, and as a producer on the film, it’s the kind of project that falls in line with LeBron James’ forays into Hollywood, producing and playing himself in the “Space Jam” and “House Party” remakes. Of course, the Tom Brady of 2022 is decidedly not the Tom Brady of 2017, so for football fans, it may be a stretch to take in the film without reflecting their present-day view onto him.

But the true MVP of the picture is Sally Field, who feels the most natural and gets the most hilarious moments. Tomlin is saddled with the pathos, Fonda the romantic drama, while Field’s Betty, free of her needy, nutty professor husband (Bob Balaban), enters a hot wing eating contest, gets high on edibles and tries out flirting for the first time. It’s her liberating journey that does the impossible for “80 for Brady,” helping it to come back from a cringeworthy trailer to score a touchdown.

Katie Walsh is a Tribune News Service film critic.

'80 for Brady'

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

Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Playing: Starts Feb. 3 in general release

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