Necessary Roughness (1991)

Directed by Stan Dragoti
Written by Rick Natkin & David Fuller

Part of the fun of a marathon like this one, covering a somewhat complete history of football movies, is that a lot of these movies are ones I saw and cherished as a kid. Now a lot of those movies are yet to come (Remember the TitansThe Waterboy, etc.), but the fun lies within re-evaluating them. I am sure for the most part they won’t live up to how I remember them as a kid, but another part of that is also steeped in the nostalgia of it. There is a level of remembrance which will factor in me liking these probably more than I should, but we each bring something unique to the movies, which is the beauty of it. Necessary Roughness is an odd title to fit into that nostalgia bucket, considering its 1991 release (I was born in 1988), and the fact that it’s every so slightly more mature than most offerings. The only answer I can find is that it must have been on cable TV, like HBO, a lot, because it’s definitely one I remember fondly and was looking forward to seeing again.

Texas State is the talk of the college football world. Sure they just won the National Championship (again), but they’re in the news for the wrong reasons. After a series of allegations proved true, the program has been given what amounts to the “death penalty”: no more scholarships for the once great program. Enter Coach Gennero (Hector Elizondo), who, with his assistant Wally (Robert Loggia), assembles a ragtag team from the student body which includes a aging QB (Scott Bakula), a professor (Sinbad), the son of the school’s biggest donor (Jason Bateman), and a kicker from the girl’s soccer team (Kathy Ireland). Together they struggle through the season, battling the overly stringent dean (Larry Miller), and all the laughs from the other teams and national media.

You know what? This is a fun movie. Plain and simple. Warts and all. And there are warts, I readily concede that point. Flawed as it may be, conventional as it may be, unrealistic as it may be, it’s still a fun movie, and a lot of that has to do with the pieces of the puzzle fitting together between the characters and performances. It’s not always so easy to get those things to fit, but fit here they do. Scott Bakula is a believable anchor, allowing the madness around him to hit all the right notes. This is not a good football team, these are not talented players, and yet its still so much fun to spend time with and around them. That is the charm of the film. That is what makes it work perhaps more than it should.

It’s stupid, it’s silly, and like I said it’s fun. There’s nothing new here. The underdog team has been overplayed across all sports films, and Necessary Roughness doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but it does the conventions well, which makes it a success, albeit a muted one. There are plenty of questions to ask here, like what are the true motivations of Coach Gennero to take the job? Sure, Paul Blake and Andre Krimm may have something to prove, but would they really come back to play on such a horrid team, with nothing around them? Especially Blake, basically setting himself up for failure. Also, Larry Miller is way cartoonish in this role, which doesn’t really work for me. Sure the film is a little on the silly side, but his performance takes it that much further and isn’t really necessary.

It’s kinda sad that this has become the bright light in football movies. That may be hyperbole, there has been better, but I have really been disappointed in the overall quality of these football movies, especially when compared to their baseball counterparts. Necessary Roughness is a fine, entertaining, forgettable film. But when that’s among the best the genre has to offer, there is a problem. I truly hope we rediscover some greatness here soon, but having stinkers like The Best of Times and Johnny Be Good will forever taint the football movie name. I don’t mean to close this review on a down note, because I truly enjoy Necessary Roughness, and think you should too, but the standard for football movies is definitely lower than it should be, that’s all I’m trying to say.

★★★ – Liked It

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