Football movies run the gamut from a bunch of losers become winners to a bunch of athletes get the coach they need or a bunch of convicts get a game and use it to get back at their guards. Sometimes you get drama with a message. In “Necessary Roughness,” you get no team with a new coach … a unique concept. Watch it for the actors and a solid story line (and it is not to be confused with the TV production of the same name).
(1991; 108 minutes; rated PG-13; directed by Stan Dragoti and starring Scott Bakula, Hector Elizondo and Robert Loggia)
A FOOTBALL MOVIE WORTH WATCHING
(NOTE: I updated this review Dec. 14, 2015, with some links and the recent death of one of the actors.)
“Necessary Roughness” is a good movie about football and Hector Elizondo gives an outstanding performance that elevates this one to nearly-great status, as does the work of much of the rest of the cast and wonderful direction by Stan Dragoti.
You can find good football films (say, the original “Longest Yard”) or a muddled one that’s bloated and full of itself (say, Oliver Stone’s “Any Given Sunday”) or one with an anti-sports message (say, the somewhat OK adaptation of “North Dallas Forty” — click here for my review), or even a really nice kids football film (“Little Giants” — click here for my review). But if you want one you probably didn’t know about, then check out “Necessary Roughness.”
Elizondo plays “Ed Gennero,” a former coach who is commentating on the day’s current scandal in college football. He’s known as “Straight Arrow” and gets hired by a Texas university after its entire team was dismissed because of cheating. Now, Elizondo has to find players who actually are students at the school. What a concept!
It’s obvious from the first reel that Elizondo, who was everyone’s favorite hotel manager in “Pretty Woman,” worked hard to project strength and wisdom through the role. Elizondo’s effort here is better than in “The Princess Diaries” and “Runaway Bride” and equal to his stint on TV’s “Monk.”
The head coach’s sidekick in “Necessary Roughness” is played by Robert Loggia. As “Walter ‘Wally’ Riggendorf” he’s brash, loud and takes a chance on a 34-year-old quarterback and a supermodel-beautiful place kicker (real supermodel Kathy Ireland plays the role). Loggia excels here and did everything from “Scarface” to being Richard Gere’s father in “An Officer and a Gentleman” to the piano playing tycoon in “Big” to being “Feech La Manna” in HBO’s “The Sopranos.” He notched 231 credits since his first in 1951 until his death on Dec. 4, 2015 — and that left him with seven decades of work.
Scott Bakula is ostensibly the headliner here by playing “Paul Blake,” the 34-year-old who didn’t have a college career because he was needed on the family farm. Now, he’s got his shot. Bakula, who won a Golden Globe for TV’s “Quantum Leap” and was in “American Beauty” and a bunch of other TV roles, is solid, but doesn’t elevate the film as much as others.
Who does elevate the film? Several supporting cast members, most notably Larry Miller as the anti-football dean; Sinbad as a professor with one year of football eligibility left; Harley Jane Kozak as the players’ journalism professor and Bakula’s love interest; and, finally with a big laugh, an energetic Rob Schneider as the voice of the Texas State University Armadillos (the fictional college here).
The plot evolves as the team is pieced together twice (a bunch of Elizondo’s first student group was shut out due to grades) and have to bond through games and a nice bar fight sequence that allows Bakula his best work and just another great scene by Elizondo. Kozak, as “Suzanne Carter,” brings a smooth touch to her role.
However, Miller, who was in “10 Things I Hate About You” and “The Nutty Professor,” was just a perfect cast and delivers a wonderful performance as the stuck-up, manipulative and egotistical “Dean Phillip Elias.” Miller’s voice must have won him the role, just as Fred Dalton Thompson’s voice and presence got him the role as the university president.
Schneider, who plays announcer “Chuck Neiderman,” hits every mark in his energetic performance and although I would have liked to have seen more of his character, it probably would have wound up too much of a good thing turning bad. Schneider has also made his mark with “Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo,” “The Hot Chick,” “50 First Dates” and “Down Periscope” (click here for my review).
A bunch of professional athletes (I’ll name them all later) are called in by Miller, who tells Elizondo that he’s arranged a scrimmage with another state institution. It turns out to be the state prison. At the end of the beatings, Ben Davidson (a huge defensive lineman who starred for the Oakland Raiders), when asked what he was serving time for, replies, “Computer fraud.” It’s a funny scene given the seriously threatening nature and outright violence of the football players and lone boxer.
“Necessary Roughness” winds up in a satisfactory way, with all the subplots spinning out and answers to most of the questions.
A final note: A TV series of the same name about a psychologist coming in to help a pro football team came out in 2011 but has absolutely no ties to the film other than the name and a slight plot concession.
Director Stan Dragoti, who was supermodel Cheryl Tiegs’ first husband, does a wonderful job of taking a bunch of potentially stereotypical parts and making the whole as good as it could ever be. Dragoti’s short career included directing efforts in only six other films including “Mr. Mom.”
“Necessary Roughness” was the 48th ranked film at the box office in 1991 with $26.2 million in receipts, according to Box Office Mojo. “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” was top of the heap with more than $202 million raked it at the box office. Other notable films from that year were “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” at No. 1 with $204.8 million; “The Silence of the Lambs” (No. 4 with $130.7 million – click here for my review), “Father of the Bride” (No. 9 with $89.3 million – click here for my review) and “Point Break” (No. 29 with $43.2 million – click here for my review).
Other cast notes (via IMDb.com):
- Jason Bateman has come up in the world since TV’s “Little House on the Prairie” and “Silver Spoons” and his small role in “Necessary Roughness,” where he plays “Jarvis Edison” (the rich donor’s son). He’s worked up to lead stuff through roles in “Juno,” “Horrible Bosses” (click here for my review), “Identity Thief” and “Couples Retreat.”
- Although remembered best as a supermodel, Ireland has recorded 39 acting credits including “Loaded Weapon 1” and “The Player.”
- The prison football team was (NFL team noted): Dick Butkus (Bears), Earl Campbell (Oilers), Roger Craig (49ers), Davidson, Tony Dorsett (Cowboys), Evander Holyfield (boxer and only non-NFLer), Ed “Too Tall” Jones (Cowboys), Jim Kelly (Bills’ quarterback in their Super Bowl years and who now has major physical challenges), Jerry Rice (49ers), Herschel Walker (Cowboys) and Randy White (Cowboys).
- Remember to always check your online resource. Even a wonderful reference website like IMDb.com makes mistakes. In its listing for “Necessary Roughness,” it has one character listed as “Eric ‘Samori’ Hansen.” Of course it’s “Samurai” (don’t blame the credits; it is spelled correctly there) and apparently was entered by someone who cannot spell or could see the underline for misspelling in a word processing program. Sheesh.
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