How much money do you think Happy Madison makes with their partnership on Netflix? They just keep printing money, or they would keep making so many of them. With their latest outing, Happy Madison and a select few of Adam Sandler’s regulars take on the true story of New Orleans Saints’ coach, Sean Payton, and his venture in coaching his son’s football team. This seems like an odd choice to take on true events when all the Sandler films feel like they are in some otherworldly existence. Something about this combination just feels…off. Home Team boasts the trademark absurd and ridiculous characters that most Happy Madison films do but they never feel like they would exist in real life. That fact just takes you out of the film.
What about these crazy characters that make up this “true story”? At the center, you have championship coach Payton who Kevin James (Sandler’s BFF) portrays with a straight face and some snarky comments. James’ timing is precise and works well for the job he must do. Taylor Lautner (of all people) plays the young coach of this team. Lautner’s character is quiet and unassuming leaving the actor with not much to do. Then there are the endless comic relief characters who just become giant distractions from this underdog football story. Rob Schneider and Gary Valentine are SO silly and over-the-top that they just destroy the tone of the film and annoy at every turn. One solid comic performance in the film is Breaking Bad alum Lavell Crawford. The material is not top notch, but Crawford has fun.
But what about the team that plays the role of underdogs? This is your basic rag tag group of misfits that you have seen in so many other films like it. Little Giants, The Big Green, The Bad News Bears…I could name so many more. There are some players who have their own personality. Maxwell Simkins is in plenty of projects right now, but his role is limited to being the hungry obese kid the whole film. You have one kid who is afraid of getting hit (whose mom is super thirsty for Payton leading to poorly written and unfunny side scenes). You have the new quarterback who is a bit dense, the incredibly talented Marcos who can play it all, and even Payton’s son who is not written with more depth than to be a motivation for his on-screen dad.
Can the story make up for these flat and cliché characters? Well…this script doubles down with a cliché narrative. You have seen this one before. They are a terrible team who gets blown out every time. Then they score for the first time. Then they keep it close for the first time. Then they dare win. But then they make it to the championship game! Why? Because of course they do. This is certainly one of those types of film. The season goes exactly how you expect it. You get to see Payton connect with his estranged son (just how you would expect it). The film was even too afraid to confront the circumstances of this true story but not even having Payton be honest to his own son about the reason he was suspended.
Does Home Team stand out in the sea of absurd and low-quality outings for Happy Madison? This film is generally watchable. Overall, it is not offensive. The filmmaking is lacking though as it offers no personality at all. If you love underdog tales and sports movies in general, you might find some enjoyment. But in the end, this is a ridiculous and forgettable outing from James and his buddies at Happy Madison.