There’s never a bad time to celebrate a Keanu Reeves movie, right? The actor has appeared in numerous movies that have been at the forefront of pop culture. Point Break, The Matrix, John Wick, and Always Be My Maybe, the singular movie star has never ceased to wow audiences and keep them quoting and revisiting his movies. One of those movies should be The Replacements, which turns 20 years old next month.
Howard Deutch’s movie wasn’t a major critical or commercial hit, but it’s one of those movies impossible to turn away from when it’s on TBS or elsewhere. It’s innately watchable. It’s a sports movie that’s as light as a feather but in the best way possible. The Replacements is a movie oozing with charisma, starting with Reeves. He’s surrounded by an equally charismatic ensemble with the likes of Gene Hackman, Rhys Ifans, Orlando Jones, and more. Together, they’re a blast to watch come together as a team of misfits.
Shane Falco Forever
Reeves starred as Shane Falco, an Ohio State quarterback that blew it in the Sugar Bowl and never recovered from the blow. Like all lonely men in the early 2000s movies, he lives on a boat. Falco doesn’t play football anymore unless he’s underwater and nobody’s watching. Once the quarterback gets the call to play on the Washington Sentinels to lead a “replacement team” following a strike, Falco gets a shot at redemption.
Keanu Reeves, The Sincere Everyman
Keanu Reeves is a rare bird as a movie star. He can play extraordinary men, like Neo, and the most ordinary men. With Shane Falco, Reeves lands somewhere in the middle as an athlete with greatness buried deep inside him. Even in a fluffy and cuddly sports comedy, Reeves just makes the arc of discovering that greatness again authentic. On top of that, Reeves is sincere. The Replacements is a popcorn movie that needs sincerity, not irony, and Reeves always brings that to the table. There’s always a palpable commitment from the actor.
Shane Falco is one of Reeves’ great movie star performances with the movie star smile, charm and all, but he manages to make Falco feel human in a sometimes ridiculous comedy. That’s true of his supporting cast, too, including Brooke Langton, playing the football-loving cheerlead Falco falls for. It’s a subplot that makes The Replacements a winning romantic comedy as well as a movie about second chances. It’s a movie that works on many levels, just like Inception.
Gotta Have Heart
The Replacements is a commercial studio picture that’s heartfelt. Howard Deutch’s movie is always wearing its heart on its sleeve, which is why Reeves was the perfect man for the job. The comedy doesn’t take itself seriously, but it takes its characters seriously. Some jokes are broad, but they’re always committed, generally light-hearted, and more often than not, hit their mark. Best of all, the ending earns its sense of triumph. When “Heroes” plays after a sweet, sweet victory, it’s not too syrupy; it’s just the right amount of syrup. There’s even something a little bittersweet about the win at the end. That’s it for these characters. No parades or sponsorship deals, just the satisfaction of rising to the occasion with a team of people you care about.
The Replacements is a feel-good movie that will only get better with time, partly because people will still be watching and marveling at Keanu Reeves 100 years from now. The Replacements may not be the first movie people remember from the actor’s already epic filmography, but it’ll be remembered as one of many times Reeves gave a role everything he’s got in the tank. Reeves leaves it all on the field, both on-screen and off in The Replacements. With the movie turning 20 next month, it’s the right time to watch it and never cease smiling.