The four lead actors of “80 for Brady” — Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, and Rita Moreno — have a combined 12 Oscar nominations, five Oscars, 45 Emmy nods, 12 Emmys, two Grammys, and three Tonys. Hell, Moreno is an EGOT! And the producer of this film, the Brady in the title, has more wins than any quarterback in NFL history, not to mention seven Super Bowl rings.
I bring up this tally of achievements to prove a theory I’ve always believed: Only truly talented geniuses can make something truly terrible.
And make no mistake, “80 for Brady,” in theaters Feb. 3, is dreadful. It’s like watching a 98-minute Super Bowl commercial that breaks for five minutes of the actual game. Every so often, there’s a cut to live footage of one of those call-in sports shows, where two hosts ramble on incessantly while tickers run on the bottom of the screen. If you aren’t a sports fan, this movie will be absolute hell for you. Do not be suckered in by its great actors.
I am a sports fan and, quite frankly, I could barely sit through this feature. I would have gotten the same result watching my fellow sports pals scream at “SportsCenter” highlights on any given Sunday. Like that sports show footage in “80 for Brady,” our ritual isn’t exactly cinematic, but at least it’s interactive and it doesn’t cost any money. Plus, there’s beer.
“80 for Brady” is “based on a true story” and, boy, this movie bends those words to their breaking point. It’s inspired by the North Attleborough Over 80 for Brady club, a group of senior women who met every Sunday to watch their beloved quarterback usher the Patriots to victory. They were not happy when he went to Tampa Bay, but remained loyal to him anyway.
After watching this film, I wondered which one of the real Over 80 for Brady crew broke into the Patriots’ control room at Super Bowl LI to give Brady the pep talk that engendered his comeback against the Atlanta Falcons. I also wondered which one of the women had the edibles-fueled orgy in the movie’s “Eyes Wide Shut”-inspired fantasy involving multiple Guy Fieris, if only so I could throw massive shade at her.
I’m being facetious. The script by Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins is just fan fiction about four older ladies who enter a sports show contest to win tickets to the Super Bowl. The object is to submit the best sob story about why one deserves the tickets.
Lou (Tomlin) is a cancer survivor who, while recovering from treatment in 2001, stumbled upon the Patriots game where Tom Brady became the team’s starting QB. She was captivated by Brady’s prowess. Watching the games helped her get through her ordeal, and NFL Sunday became a ritual she shared with her three closest friends, widower Maura (Moreno), writer Trish (Fonda), and retired math professor Betty (Field).
We learn that she submits their story to the sports program — and lo and behold, she wins the tickets.
So begins a road trip to the NFL compound in Houston, where each character will have her own adventure peppered with jokes so old they would have bombed in vaudeville. Knowing how good these actors are at comedy, it’s disheartening to watch them flail in cameo-filled situations that wouldn’t pass muster in a 1978 episode of “The Love Boat.”
In addition to Fieri, who shows up here as much as he does on the Food Network, there are short appearances by Glynn Turman and Harry Hamlin as potential love interests for Moreno and Fonda. Billy Porter plays Googoo, the man who named Lady Gaga. “I’m Googoo! She’s Gaga!” he says. These are the jokes!
The least awful subplot involves Trish’s self-published sex fantasies that feature Rob Gronkowski taking women to ecstatic heights in the end zone. Her latest tome, “Between a Gronk and a Hard Place,” ends with the slogan for Gillette razors. Come on, movie! “Fifty Shades of Gronk” was RIGHT THERE as a title! At least the tight end gets the film’s sole funny moment.
Brady magically appears every so often to give Lou advice (he needs something to do now that he’s retired, again, from football). She practically prays to him. He is the film’s producer, so I guess that’s appropriate. What’s not appropriate is you spending your hard-earned cash on this crass piece of commercialism. Not even John Toll, who won two Oscars for cinematography, can make this movie look good. Stay home and watch the real Super Bowl instead.
80 FOR BRADY
Directed by Kyle Marvin. Written by Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins. Starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Rita Moreno, Glynn Turman, Harry Hamlin, Billy Porter, Guy Fieri, Tom Brady. At AMC Boston Common, Landmark Kendall Square, Regal Fenway & RPX, and suburbs. 98 minutes. PG-13 (drug use, pervasive Guy Fieri)
Odie Henderson is the Boston Globe's film critic.