The opening scenes of The Replacements see American football team, the Washington Sentinels, in dire straits. The players have walked out in a protest over pay at a vital point in the season, forcing the Sentinels’ owner to bring veteran coach Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman) out of retirement to put together a replacement team. He assembles a group of oddballs and misfits including failed quarterback Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves), a boozing Welsh brawler (Rhys Ifans), a convicted former football pro, a deaf mute, a psychopathic ex-cop, a sumo wrestler and a kleptomaniac (Orlando Jones) who has trouble catching the ball. It is Falco’s job to pull the team together and overcome his own problems to take the Sentinels to the playoffs. Howard Deutch (Pretty in Pink, Grumpier Old Men) directs this variation on a losers-make-good storyline that runs like Police Academy on the playing field. Keanu plays the Steve Guttenberg role. Sandra Bullock clone Brooke Langton provides the all-too-predictable cheerleading love interest, while Rhys Ifans delivers light relief as the team’s chain-smoking kicker.
On the DVD: The main feature is presented in letterboxed widescreen format with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound in three languages (English, Spanish and Italian). There are optional subtitles in 20 different languages. Interactive menus are slickly designed like the yard markings on an American football field and provide access to a range of special features. As well as a theatrical trailer and commentary by director Howard Deutch, there is a 15-minute HBO special “The Making of the Replacements” hosted by Orlando Jones and a 10-minute “Actors Guide to Football” which provides a detailed look at the way the entirely authentic football sequences were planned and filmed. —Chris Campion