The trailer and other marketing materials for 80 for Brady offer a fairly accurate picture of what to expect from this comedy. This is a featherweight movie that's been built from the ground up to be light and breezy, with many of the gags emanating from seeing esteemed performers like Jane Fonda and Sally Field engaging in wacky shenanigans like accidentally ingesting drugs or dancing. There aren't really any surprises in here, which does ensure that you won't be quoting or referencing 80 for Brady long after you watch it. But while it's flickering on the screen, it's a pleasant distraction that matches expectations. It's always better when a film surprises you, but it's not a crime to be perfectly cromulent.
Inspired by a true story (though I presume it has as much to do with its inspiration as Tag did with its own real-life source material), 80 for Brady follows a quartet of New England Patriots fans, Lou (Lily Tomlin), Trish (Jane Fonda), Maura (Rita Moreno), and Betty (Sally Field) who would rather die than miss a game or a play from Tom Brady. Spurred on by the passion of Lou, this gaggle of pals decides to make a trek to Houston, Texas to watch Super Bowl LI, a game where Brady and the Patriots will be playing. Traveling to the lone star state was easy, but keeping track of their tickets and staying out of trouble before the big game, those will be the real challenges for these die-hard fans.
If nothing else, 80 for Brady is a welcome demonstration that its primary actors won't sleepwalk even through material that's often beneath them. Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern have delivered a script that often alternates between being a formulaic comedy and a lengthy NFL commercial, but our primary leads are as awake and alert as ever. Even the supporting cast is putting in more effort than they probably should. Glynn Turman, especially, delivers a dramatic monologue in such a touching and subtly moving fashion, complete with the gradual introduction of real tears into the sequence, all in service of a very predictable gag involving Moreno's character. These kinds of performances don't make 80 for Brady a new comic gem, but they do give it a little more pep in its step than you'd expect.
Most of the movie is pretty serviceable but deeply predictable fare, complete with celebrity references and nods to "youth culture" (are you ready to see Lily Tomlin dab?) that are probably five years out of date, at least. If the sight of older women dancing sounds hilarious to you, then buckle up, you're in for a good time. The script also has some very awkward beats, namely a subplot with Betty and her quietly pestering husband (played by Bob Balaban) that awkwardly peters out with no resolution. At least Haskins and Halpern wisely avoid giving this gaggle of friends any kind of traditional dramatic break-up at the end of the second act. There's conflict between these four chums, but they're never in danger of falling apart. After all, they've been friends for decades, will some Super Bowl-related problem really devastate their dynamic? It's a nice subtle touch in a movie that often defaults to the broad and familiar.
Their script also gets a second wind of life in the third act when it seems like all the major problems for our lead characters are solved. Without getting into spoiler territory, 80 for Brady eventually decides to make the saga of its lead character's a kind of Rogue One to Super Bowl LI's Star Wars: A New Hope. In other words, it becomes a behind-the-scenes saga involving ordinary people that reveals the circumstances that made a more famous story possible. It's a ludicrous flight of fancy, but it's a lot more inventive than the more generic shenanigans that populate the preceding story. We've all seen gags hinging on older ladies dancing before. Lily Tomlin anchoring NFL fan-fiction, now that's more novel.
Beyond this detour into historical revisionism, director Kyle Marvin's approach for 80 for Brady is keeping things easygoing, but not surprising. This very straightforward approach means the proceedings are never quite good enough to either be worthy of its four lead performers or make you forget that you're watching a 98-minute commercial for the NFL. Still, if this movie seems like it'll be your cup of tea from the promos, you'll likely have a good time. 80 for Brady is here to deliver on expectations and isn't interested in rocking the boat any more than that.